This post is based on the a question asked by the Time to Change campaign, “If one word could end the stigma of mental illness, what would it be?” The views below are my own based on this image and not linked in any other way to Time to Change.
I thought I would use the image above as inspiration to do my top 10 words for the question “If one word could end the stigma of Mental illness, what would it be?” and explain my reasoning behind the words. These are in no particular order as most I feel are fairly equal in their impact on ending the stigma.
1. Education: This is a huge part of ending the stigma and I have written about its importance before. Education is linked into understanding (another word I will be discussing further in this top 10). Educating people will help remove the fear that people have in regards to mental illness. People need to know that we are more likely to be a victim of violence rather than a perpetrator. They need to know that we aren’t going to all run around killing people. Most prejudice and discrimination is born of ignorance, therefore education is a major tool in tackling this.
2. Understanding: This is very similar to education but I believe it deserves to be separate. Understanding is more than knowing the facts. It is about knowing why people behave as they do and not expecting them to “snap out of it”. It links into another word included below, acceptance.
3. Acceptance: Acceptance is a major player in ending stigma surrounding mental illness. If people are accepting of mental illness then they are showing that they know that we can’t stop having a mental illness. It shows they know we don’t do what we are doing because we want to but because we have an illness. Acceptance is about taking a person as they come and not telling them they need to change.
4. Love: Love is important. Without it we feel alone. It doesn’t need to be romantic love. The love of friends and family is their way of showing that they accept us as we are, and if they can love us, then we cannot be a terrible person. Love shows we have no need to be ashamed.
5. Respect: If you respect someone, you treat them as you, yourself would wish to be treated. It shows that you see that person as a human being who deserves to be treated well. Respect means you are not discriminating against that person. Respect is important in fighting discrimination and stigma. If you respect the person then you will not treat them negatively.
6. Patience: Patience is a huge part of working with people who have a mental illness. It would help end the stigma surrounding mental illness if people were more patient with those of us that are suffering. People who discriminate and tell us we need to “snap out of it” are lacking the patience that is required when being around us. They need to realise that recovery from mental illness is a marathon and not a sprint.
7. Compassion: This is something that is lacking in people who discriminate against those who are suffering from a mental illness. To act in such a negative way towards someone who is already suffering with negative thoughts about themselves, shows a complete lack of care and compassion towards other people. People with mental illnesses deserve to be treated with the same compassion that is shown to those with physical illnesses.
8. Equality: Equality is one of the largest things that will make a change to attitudes of people. When mental illnesses have the same standing as physical illnesses people may start to treat those who suffer with the compassion and understanding they seriously deserve. With equality will hopefully come the change in attitudes that is needed.
9. Listening: If people listened to those of us suffering from mental illnesses rather than dismissing us as “crazy” or “nutters”, then they could learn what we need to help us and know that we are just like them with an illness. When people listen they can learn and that will feed into all of the other words that are listed here. Listening is key.
10. Empathy: This is a huge part of ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. If you are empathising with someone then you are showing that you understand what they are going through and know that they have no reason to be ashamed of what is happening to them. You are encompassing many of these other words into the way you act towards that person.
So there you have 10 words that could help us end the stigma surrounding mental illness. They are all key in this and I don’t think one of them alone is more important tan the others. I’m also sure there are many others that could be added to the list. The important thing is that we talk and make people aware that this discrimination is not okay.
Image copyright of Time to Change 2014