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Nine Ways to Fight Stigma

Stigma is one of the most challenging aspects of living with a mental health condition. It causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control, and prevents many from seeking the help they need and speaking out. Here are nine ways to reduce and defeat stigma, as suggested by the national NAMI Facebook community:

  1. Talk openly about mental health. Mental illness touches many lives and is still considered by some to be something to hide. By being brave and sharing your story, you encourage others to learn about and accept the mental health conditions of their loved ones and peers.
  2. Educate yourself and others about mental health. Challenge others respectfully when they propagate stereotypes and misconceptions.
  3. Be conscious of your language. Certain words are already considered to be taboo and disrespectful, but others like “crazy,” and “psycho” are still commonly used. By mediating our vocabulary we can reduce the stigma and negative connotations attached to mental health.
  4. Encourage equality in how people perceive physical illness and mental illness. By speaking of mental illness in the same terms as physical illnesses, rather than as moral failings, we encourage others to take mental illness more seriously and compassionately.
  5. Show empathy and compassion for those living with a mental health condition. Loving and respecting people means having a desire to learn more about who they are, what their life is like, and where they have come from.
  6. Stop the criminalization of those who live with mental illness. Talk with families, neighborhood groups, law enforcement officers, health professionals and legal experts about how to interact with someone affected by mental illness. Encourage those in charge to get training in crisis intervention.
  7. Push back against unfair depictions of mental illness in the media. Speak out against those who deflect real social issues in favor of simplified explanations of nuanced problems, especially when they rely on people living with mental illness as scapegoats.
  8. See the person, not the illness. Talk about your family and friends with mental illnesses any time a conversation invites the opportunity with an open heart, love, and real information about the real person. They are more than their condition.
  9. Advocate for mental health reform. Empower others wherever you can by writing to your legislators, talk to local officials, and fight for continued mental health funding. 

Stigma is not something that will go away on its own, but if we work together as a community, we can change the way we perceive mental illness in our society. Do your part by pledging to be stigmafree today.

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