Our annual Sock it to Stigma campaign is back this month and seeks to raise awareness about the stigma associated with mental health and the damage that stigma can cause.
Stigma around mental health still prevents many people from seeking the help and support they need. We must all take personal responsibility to create the kind of culture which encourages people to speak up, which allows them to feel safe in doing so. – Peter Wingrove, Shawmind CEO
Here are 3 simple ways you can actively fight mental health stigma and make it easier for people to seek the help they need.
Talk about mental health
Stigma around mental health stems from it feeling like a taboo subject. Normalise mental health by talking openly and honestly about it whenever an opportunity presents itself.
There is no obligation to share anything you feel is too personal, but simply acknowledging that you (or someone you know) has struggled with mental health at times can help others who are struggling to feel supported.
You can also take charge and start conversations yourself to help others open up, gain valuable insight and show people that it’s ok to talk about mental health.
Not sure how to start a conversation? Try these:
I’ve felt really down lately, has anyone else felt like this? And if so, what helped you feel better?
I was reading an article about workplace health in the UK the other day, and presenteeism – i.e. people avoiding taking time off for mental health – can actually cost companies massive amounts in the long run! Would you ever take time off for your mental health?
Stigma can be present both internally and externally – mental health support groups can be a great way to combat both. Support groups can give you a space to talk away from the stigmas you may face in your normal environment and being around those in a similar situation can help you to question your own beliefs and stigmas that may be holding you back from getting more help.
Educate yourself and others
With a lack of knowledge and understanding comes misjudgement and fear, i.e. stigma. One of the most powerful ways you can help to fight mental health stigma is to educate yourself and others.
Speak up when someone stigmatises mental health – especially if they do it unknowingly. Have a conversation with them about why their stigma against mental health is harmful and how they can be more conscious in the future.
Ask questions when you don’t understand or want to learn more. Everyone has mental health, but everyone experiences it slightly differently. If someone has an experience with mental health that is different to yours or different to what you would expect, ask them about it and learn from each other to form a well-rounded and more inclusive knowledge of mental health.
Take mental health training. There are lots of mental health courses available from workplace CPD qualifications, to online knowledge fillers and even mental health first aid training. Formal mental health training like this can help you learn from experienced professionals and leave you feeling more confident when dealing with mental health and educating others.
All proceeds from the Shawmind mental health courses go to our #Headucation campaign to support children’s mental health and stop stigma early on.
Read about mental health – whether it’s guides, personal stories, or scientific papers – it all helps to build up your knowledge. Check out Trigger’s library of mental health books for ages and interests!
Re-evaluate how you perceive mental health
Every change starts with you. To fight mental health stigma, you first have to evaluate how you perceive mental health and if stigma is affecting your behaviour in any way.
Think about the language you use when talking about mental health? Is it mostly negative or positive? If you only ever negatively discuss mental health then you will be more likely to associate mental health with negativity and contribute to the stigma surrounding it. It’s important to remember that mental health can be positive and negative so you should talk about both aspects equally.
Next, you should evaluate how you treat mental health compared to physical health. Do you take time off for mental health in the same way you would with the flu? Do you tell yourself the same things when you have poor mental health as when you have poor physical health? E.g. people frequently tell themselves (and others) to “just get on with” and to “try to be more positive” when they’re struggling with mental health whereas if they had a physical health problem like a broken leg, they’d probably tell them to get help as soon as possible.
By approaching mental health with the same attitude as we do for physical health, we can reach a point where they are both discussed openly and honestly without fear of judgement and beat the stigma around mental health.
Stigma is one of the biggest factors that prevent people from seeking help and talking about their mental health. Our #SockItToStigma campaign aims to get workplaces talking about mental health in a safe, non-judgmental environment to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health. All funds raised during this campaign go straight to our #Headucation fund to support children with mental health and stop stigma before it can start.
Find out how your workplace or your school can get involved with #SockItToStigma 2022 or donate now to support children’s mental health and stop stigma in its tracks.