According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), over 52 million adults in the United States live or struggle with mental illnesses that may vary in level of severity. NIMH also reported that more than 24 million received mental health services. More than half of the people didn’t. There are different reasons for this. One reason is the lack of access and another is the lack of money to avail of such services. Another reason is that people themselves refuse to get treatment, for fear of being judged by others or losing their jobs.
“More than half of people with mental illness don’t receive help for their disorders. Often, people avoid or delay seeking treatment due to concerns about being treated differently or fears of losing their jobs and livelihood. That’s because stigma, prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illness is still very much a problem,” as per the American Psychiatric Association.
Breaking down mental health barriers
There are ways on how we can break down the stigma and the barriers that keep people from getting the help they need.
- Be vocal – The first step of solving a problem is acknowledging that there is one, to begin with. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health illnesses, then speak up. To talk openly and confidently is a step towards the right direction. If you have people in your life who are willing to listen, like family, friends, and colleagues, go for it. If you are reluctant to share to people close to you, then you can turn to online communities. There are thousands of online communities and forums out there dedicated to giving people a safe space to discuss mental health.
- Educate yourself – If you know more about mental health, then you’ll know the message you need to share with others. You’ll understand just how these conditions or illnesses impact others. What other life aspects can impact mental health? For example, food. Do you think the food you eat can impact your mood? How about work? Do you think work stress amplifies people’s mental health issues? How about the quality of your sleep? Knowledge is power. There are many resources online for you to educate yourself about mental health. Through your knowledge, you can be an advocate because you fully understand what people go through.
- Embrace Days Meant for Mental Health – Do you know when World Mental Health Day is? It is celebrated and recognized every 10th of October yearly. How about Mental Health Awareness Month? That is observed throughout the month of May. To familiarize yourself with these dates is to be part of a global movement that is all about championing mental wellness and inspiring people to get help. People all over the globe mobilize during these dates and they could always use an extra set of hands.
- Don’t fuel the stigma – There are instances wherein people are unaware that they are being prejudiced or discriminatory against people suffering from mental health. For example, a simple, “it’s all in your head” can really put someone down. That is not true. People suffer not because of how their mind or brain works. There are other factors that result in them feeling anxiety, depression, and stress. So, be mindful and responsible when you talk about the mental health of others.
- Lead by example – To break down the barriers, be a role model that can inspire people. Practice the first 4 items. By doing so, people around you are encouraged to do the same. They see value in what you do and how it impacts others.