Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental health condition are still common. These attitudes can come from the perception that a certain attribute makes a person unacceptably different from others, leading to prejudice and discrimination against them and experiencing complex feelings such as isolation, shame and embarrassment.
Yet don’t we all have distinguishing characteristics or personal traits that are different to others? How might we feel if something about us made us unacceptable to others – probably not good.
At times, challenges people with mental illnesses face aren’t the illnesses themselves. The stigma, or negative feelings, attitudes and stereotypes, that surround mental health can make getting help scary, and leading a fulfilling life difficult. If you were diagnosed with a serious physical illness, you’d expect and almost certainly get emotional and social support from people around you, not silence, gossip, jokes or discrimination sometimes faced by people with a mental illness.
Stigma can prevent people from seeking help, restrict resources from being allocated and discourage others from lending their support.
The most effective way to reduce stigma is to normalise conversations around mental health and create a safe space for friends and family to talk about their experiences. If you are interested in developing skills in this area, a workshop is available to help you engage in Confident Conversations in all aspects of your professional role.
Whether mental health is a recent concern, or an ongoing part of people’s daily reality, you can talk about it, one resource available to you is the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). You don’t have to be alone, and silence will not have the final word. You could join the Staff Wellbeing Champions on Time to Talk events from 3rd to 11th February.
One of the best ways to stop the stigma is to learn more about mental illness. Separating the truth from the stigma can help increase awareness, understanding and acceptance for those living with mental health challenges. Get the facts and spread the word. More information is available on some of the Wellbeing Workshops.,
We can all show our support and help family, friends and colleagues who struggle, by keeping a few straightforward approaches in mind.
- Language matters; pay attention to the words you use about mental health
- Educate yourself; learn more and understand the signs
- Pass on the information
- Be kind; small acts of kindness speak a lot
- Support people; treat everyone with dignity and respect
- Just listen
- Focus on the positive; mental illness is only part of a larger picture
- Talk about it; start a dialogue, break the silence
When it comes to mental health, now more than ever, every action counts.