Monday, October 8, 2012

National Day Without Stigma 2012

This week is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. Although one can educate themselves on mental health at any time; the week signifies the importance of awareness. Tomorrow marks, National Day Without Stigma.

The website describes its goals, this way: 
  • To give people the language and skills they need to have a conversation about mental health.
  • To reduce stigma by promoting awareness about the prevalence of mental health disorders and effectiveness of seeking help.
  • To create a supportive environment on campuses and in communities in which people can speak up and seek help for mental health.
  • To eliminate any shame and discrimination experienced by students, whether they experience stigma about their identity, service, abilities, or any characteristics that define who they are.
What I preach to my patients is; "you are not your illness." What I preach to friends is; "There's no such thing as 'crazy'. There is such a thing as illness."

This is a great place to start. Think about it in this way: if you have a physical illness, it does not define you. Cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS. These things affect you but they are not you. This goes for mental illnesses as well.

"Crazy" is a word that I use to define ridiculousness or ill logic. The definition of "crazy" is as such, but most dictionaries also include word such as;demented and insane.

We are not bound by the latter descriptions.  

When you watch a person on the street, responding to internal stimuli, know that they are ill. They are not meant to serve as entertainment or to satisfy your curiosity. A negative response is most often prompted by disgust, misunderstanding, or varying levels of discomfort.

Even in the mental health profession -- some psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists and clinical social workers, feel comfortable using words like, "crazy" or "nuts." You would think that the mental health biz, would be a sacred space, free of such epithets.

Despite genuine empathy and concern, there are many professionals who embrace such language. Those with mental illnesses might refer to themselves as "crazy", in attempt to downplay the pain of stigma. This process promotes an unhealthy view of oneself.

Help stop the cycle. Control your own language, and ultimately your own thinking. Educate yourself about mental health issues. Take a minute to correct someone else. There are ways to do it without confrontation. If you hear someone exclaim, "They're crazy!" Perhaps respond by saying, "I think they're just sick."

Use your creativity to make change.

For more information visit, Active Minds: Changing the Conversation About Mental Health.

No comments:

Post a Comment