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Destigmatizing Mental Illness Starts With You

“Oh, she’s crazy”, “Yeah, that guy is a maniac”, or “He’s nuts, isn't he?”. These are all phrases that are unfortunately said to describe people with perceived mental health issues. Why? Because significant stigma around mental health and mental illness continues to exist in our society. Now, let's first try to understand what the stigmatization of mental health actually means.

What is stigma?

The stigmatization of mental health makes it difficult for people to talk openly about what they feel. At the most basic level, people working towards destigmatizing mental health have just one primary objective: Making it simpler to talk about these concerns openly and reducing the pressure on those who are dealing with mental health issues or who have loved ones who are suffering in silence. This can be lifesaving, in many ways.

What is the downside of de-stigmatization?

Despite this wave of de-stigmatization, there are certain pitfalls that include the development of a culture and environment that supports inaccurate information and skewed perceptions of what constitutes and does not constitute mental illness. This propensity causes a rise in erroneous diagnoses, faulty prescriptions, and incidence rates as well as the widespread mislabelling of mental health issues. For example, people often joke about being depressed or anxious even when they are just feeling sad. This kind of misuse of terminology further blurs the line between common emotions and serious mental illness and makes it more difficult for decision-makers to deploy resources effectively.

What can be done?

We can actively change the way we talk about mental illness. It would do a world of good if we stop using derogatory terms that reinforce negative attitudes towards people who have a diagnosed mental illness. We can also make use of the online resources that are at our disposal to educate ourselves on mental health issues. One should realize, however, that it can often be more difficult than it initially appears, and earnest attempts to make the world a more just and compassionate place can go a long way in helping this cause.

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