Though mental health and substance use disorders are common, they remain highly stigmatized. Many of us are simply not comfortable talking about these issues—and that includes those of us who are directly impacted by them.
This stigma is not just unfortunate; it can be deadly. Since speaking up and speaking out can be so difficult, there are many who choose to suffer in silence—seeking to cope with their disorder entirely independently, rather than reaching out for the help they truly need.
Speaking up and sharing your own story of struggle is important for a couple of reasons. One, it helps you get the encouragement, care and clinical assistance that you need. Two, it gives others the courage to do the same thing—to look beyond stigma and enlist aid in their recovery.
There are several things you can do to help break down stigma. Consider each of the following:
- Refrain from using pejorative language to describe mental health disorders, terms like “crazy” or “psycho”—and encourage your friends and loved ones to do likewise. Explain how hurtful these terms can be.
- Educate yourself about mental health and substance use disorders; take the time to learn more about how they work and to dispel any myths or misconceptions.
- Be willing to listen to others as they share their story of mental health recovery or substance use recovery.
- More than anything else, be willing to speak up and share your story—on social media, with family and friends, or simply in the safe environment of a support group.
Stigma is oppressive, and keeps people from getting the help they need—but together, we can move past it, and ensure that people suffer in silence no longer.
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