Mental Health and Stigma

1 in 4 of us will experience mental health problems at some stage of our lives. Mental health problems do not discriminate, it can happen to any one of us. It could be your Dad, your cousin; your sister in Australia, or your best friend. Every one of us has mental health and nobody should feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about their feelings, emotions and their experiences.

However, stigma around Mental health still remains an issue in Ireland. When we talk about stigma, we are talking about using negative labels to identify people with mental health problems.

Stigma has its roots in fear and misunderstanding. Many people hold negative opinions towards people with mental health problems because they do not understand the issues involved and because they are relying on myths and misconceptions. As a result, many young people find it hard to admit they are struggling to cope and to reach out for support as they are afraid that their peers or loved ones will not understand or will mock them.

Your attitude towards mental health can have a real impact on the people around you.

Everyone should know that Talking is a sign of strength not a weakness, it is okay to say you are not ok and need support…….if you had a broken bone would you delay seeking help? So why would you delay seeking support to help you through a difficult time.

So how can you help reduce the stigma around mental health:

  1. Know the facts– Learn about mental health, know the facts rather than the myths.
  2. Be aware of your attitudes and behaviours – See people as humans who have feelings and emotions not as labels or stereotypes which are based on myths. See beyond the mental health problem, just you would do if the person had a physical ailment.
  3. Choose your words carefully – Check your language, don’t use hurtful or derogatory language. The way we speak can have a big impact on others.
  4. Educate others – Challenge others when you hear them speak using myths as facts. Let them know how their negative words can and misinformation can stop someone with a mental health problem from seeking help.
  5. Support family and friends – Mental health problems are only one part of the person, they can still function and make a contribution in college, work or society. So always treat people with respect and non-judgementally, you never know when someone could be going through a difficult time or when you may be in their shoes and need support. You don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health you just need to show someone you care about them.