No matter how many conversations are had or how many awareness efforts take place when it comes to suicide prevention, it seems society doesn't know how to make a positive difference. I get it. Death is a hard thing for people in general, and suicide grates harder against that. I'm here to share some dos and don'ts for suicide prevention that can help. (Note: This post has a content warning.)
How to Combat Stigma
It's always nice to see folks speaking up in the name of mental health awareness. Continuing the conversation about mental health and mental illness is one of the key things we can do when combatting mental health stigma, but it's important to communicate in these situations effectively. I'd like to use what happened with Demi Lovato and a small frozen yogurt business as a starting point and example for this conversation.
Mental illnesses can have destructive behaviors that accompany them, and these behaviors can often be difficult to understand and, like mental health in general, cloaked in stigma. Because of that, addressing destructive behaviors linked to mental illness can be a challenge, but it's an important part of showing support to those who struggle.
Conversations and awareness efforts for mental health and mental illness do talk about certain disorders, but there are still many mental health conditions we generally don't talk about that we need to destigmatize. Because there is this narrowness of conversation and the heavy stigma around many mental illnesses, there's some work to do when it comes to even approaching how we can tackle the stigma they face.
Talking isn't enough to break mental health stigma, which I think may be a hard pill to swallow. I know how impactful conversation and general mental health awareness efforts can be on an interpersonal level, and I don't mean to say those things aren't important. However, we need to understand that they're not enough to break mental health stigma entirely, and here's why.
The physical symptoms of mental illness and mental health struggles are not often spoken about but are important pieces in understanding mental health overall. I'm sure to some, pairing physical symptoms with something mental seems like a misnomer. Maybe that's part of why physical symptoms are used in the battle against stigma. But can the existence of physical symptoms stop mental health stigma?
When we're combatting mental health stigma, it's important to be as inclusive as possible. One of the ways we fight stigma is to talk about or try to convey the idea that our experiences don't have to fit in a box and that there isn't any shame in not having everything together, in being "messy." But does this saturation of messages mean it's not okay to be, for lack of a better word, "neat?"
Tragedy can bring people together and cause them to rally together for a cause, including mental health. While coming to arms to foster awareness is great, when we do so is also important. Don't wait until tragedy strikes to fight mental health stigma.
The stigma surrounding drug addiction can be just as pervasive as drug addiction itself. It's important to realize that spreading drug addiction stigma doesn't address the overall issue of drug addiction or to people recovering from the illness.
Bands, celebrities, and other icons make a difference by talking about mental health and mental illness. While some may think it's a publicity stunt, having larger-than-life people use their platforms in this way can have a positive impact on their fans and help fight against stigma.