Let others know that there is hope and understanding. You can change the way the world sees mental health.
Are You StigmaFree?
What is Stigma? Why is it a Problem?
Stigma is when someone, or even you yourself, views a person in a negative way just because they have a mental health condition. Some people describe stigma as a feeling of shame or judgement from someone else. Stigma can even come from an internal place, confusing feeling bad with being bad.
Navigating life with a mental health condition can be tough, and the isolation, blame and secrecy that is often encouraged by stigma can create huge challenges to reaching out, getting needed support and living well. Learning how to avoid and address stigma are important for all of us, especially when you realize stigma’s effects:
People experiencing mental health conditions often face rejection, bullying and discrimination. This can make their journey to recovery longer and more difficult.
Mental health conditions are the leading cause of disability across the United States.
Even though most people can be successfully treated, less than half of the adults in the U.S. who need services and treatment get the help they need.
The average delay between the onset of symptoms and intervention is 8-10 years.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death of youth ages 15-24 and the tenth leading cause of death for all Americans.
Here are NAMI's Three Steps for Being StigmaFree:
Educate Yourself and Others
Everyone knows a little about mental health issues but knowing the facts can help you educate others and reject stigmatizing stereotypes. They are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Understanding mental health isn’t only about being able to identify symptoms and having a name for conditions, but dispelling false ideas about mental health conditions as well.
We all experience emotional ups and downs from time to time caused by events in our lives. Mental health conditions go beyond these emotional reactions and become something longer lasting. They are medical conditions that cause changes in how we think and feel and in our mood. They are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing.
With proper treatment, people can realize their full potential, cope with the stresses of life, work productively and meaningfully contribute to the world. Without mental health we cannot be fully healthy.
Yet, understanding mental health isn’t only about being able to identify symptoms and having a name for these conditions. There is a complicated system involving local communities, the federal government, research institutions, private companies and other pieces that are all trying to fit together.
Each piece contributes to our understanding of mental health—if one is missing, the picture isn’t complete.
See the Person, Not the Condition
1 in 5 Americans live with a mental health condition and each of them has their own story, path and journey that says more about them than their diagnosis does. Whether you are a friend, family member, caregiver or medical professional, getting to know a person and treating them with kindness and empathy means far more than just knowing what they are going through.
Share Your Story
It’s important for people living with mental health conditions to know that they are not alone. Sharing a story about your personal experiences with mental health challenges can help in your own recovery as well as provide encouragement and support to others with similar experiences. Telling your story can take several forms:
NAMI offers two safe, moderated spaces for sharing stories and creative expression: You Are Not Alone and OK2Talk. These spaces also allow for anonymous public posting, unlike our NAMI blog.
You have an authentic voice. You can make a difference for yourself and others by sharing your experiences and perspective. What has helped? What hasn’t? What has been most discouraging about your condition? What has given you hope? There are all sorts of things you know that other people want to know—you are not alone.
Let them know that they aren’t either.
Our mental health care system has been in crisis for far too long; often keeping treatment and recovery out of the hands of many who need it. We can take action now as we push for better legislation and policies to improve lives for everyone. By lending your support, you can show that this cause is important to you.
Take Action On Advocacy Issues
If you have a story, you have the power to influence policymakers.
Policy change is one major way we can make a difference in the lives of people living with mental health conditions and their families. NAMI advocates for an array of issues including:
Protecting people’s access to treatment and services
Attaining mental health parity
Securing better funding for research
We maintain an active presence in the U.S. Capitol on priority issues with relationships on both sides of the aisle. NAMI also has a strong presence in all 50 states, advocating for state laws, as well as county and local policies that will ensure that people get the help they need.