Be open to conversations regarding mental health

To reduce the stigma surrounding mental disorders, we need to feel comfortable talking about it. Cancer used to be a taboo subject, but through open and honest conversations, the stigma has been removed. The more we talk about mental disorders, the more we normalize them in people’s eyes. Starting the conversation is the first step.

Use respectful language

Words are powerful – they can heal and hurt at the same time. We need to be careful with them when talking about mental health:

Use words that puts the person first. Man is not defined by his mental issue and should not be treated in this way. A person has bipolar disorder – he is not bipolar. People live with a mental disorder, but do not belong to the group of “mentally ill”.

Be careful how you talk about suicide. Suicide is a sensitive topic and should be discussed in a way that shows respect for the individual and his loved ones. A person “loses his life” or “dies due to a suicide,” not “commits suicide.” When someone tried to take their own life, they “had a suicide attempt” they did not  “had a failed suicide attempt.”

Question the misconceptions. If you hear people use stigmatizing or scathing language, tell them.

Do not use mental disorders as adjectives. You don’t have to call yourself OCD because you like to organize your things, or say that the weather is “bipolar” because it changes often. This undermines the true diagnoses.

Don’t call someone “insane”, “psychotic,” or “crazy.” For people who have challenging symptoms that are beyond their control, it can be very harmful, among other things, to be called “crazy.”

Don’t use the words “those” and “abnormal.” Calling people with mental health problems “those” or “abnormal” creates a “we against them” relationship. This can make people with mental health problems feel inferior, different, or as if they are hermits – they are not.

You need to discover what you may not understand

It is challenging to understand something you have never experienced. It is easy to think that people exaggerate or simulate to attract attention, but this way of thinking is dangerous and hurtful.

Living with mental health problems makes everyday activities – such as going to work, spending time with friends or getting out of bed – much more difficult. If the employee needs sick-leave due to their mental health, or a friend cancels your plans, try to be understanding and empathetic. You never know what others are going through.

Support others during their difficult moments and their recovery

Supporting others can be challenging, especially if you don’t understand their problems. It is difficult to know what to say and sometimes you can feel someone’s high expectations of you. But your support can have life-saving consequences, as the feeling of support is one of the most important aspects of recovery. For example, see the differences between the two conversations:

  1. After listening to it and talking about the problem from every angle, you become impatient. You are tired of always being around someone who is unhappy and sad, so you say, “It’s not such a big deal! Why are you so upset? Just come to your senses! ”

She cries and leaves. You haven’t heard from her since then.

  1. Even though you don’t understand why your friend is so upset, you want to help her. After she has stopped talking, you ask her, “Is there anything else that has happened? I’m asking because you’ve been so sad lately. You can always talk to me.”

“I don’t know … I haven’t been myself lately. I do not know why”.

“Have you thought about talking to anyone about this? I can help you look for more information and you can go if you want.”

“Yes, maybe I will. I will really appreciate your help.”

The difference between these two conversations is clear: stigma versus understanding and support. You can always have a positive effect on someone’s mental health just by saying a few kind words to them. A few minutes of your time can change someone’s life.