With two high-profile suicides in the news recently, mental health has come to the fore again, but this time there is an effort to realize that the stigma of being depressed or otherwise mentally ill, is keeping people from seeking the help they so desperately need. While the advice to patients is always to seek help, ask their doctor, and reach out, the reality of mental illness can sometimes make that impossible. There are ways, however, to support those we know who have mental health issues and help them to understand that medical care is available.
Sometimes though, it’s what we say to our friends and family that matters. It might seem innocent enough, but there are ways to approach the issue that don’t perpetuate the stigma. The first is to realize that terms like “depressed” and “OCD” reflect actual mental health conditions. It’s not just someone being sad, or someone wanting their spice rack arranged neatly. Another way to avoid to derogatory language like “Psycho” or “Cray cray.” Mental health isn’t a joke. Mental illness is not that different from other illness. If a friend has cancer, you don’t call them a cancerous person. Similarly, don’t call someone struggling with mental illness a “schizophrenic” or a “manic depressive.” Finally, social media is powerful. If a celebrity is seen “acting out” it might not be a temper tantrum or a PR stunt, but rather an illness. Choose your words and actions carefully.