Why is it so hard to talk about mental health? It’s time to get rid of the stigma

Jan 6 2021, 11:46 pm

If you have a sore throat, a fever or COVID-related symptoms right now, would you feel comfortable letting your boss know you need to see a doctor? We’re pretty sure that your answer is yes. Why is the same request so difficult when it comes to mental health symptoms?

Breaking the stigma

Morneau Shepell’s latest Mental Health Index recently found that almost half of working Canadians need mental health support, but very few seek the support they need.

Many studies have revealed that the main reason for not seeking professional help when dealing with mental health concerns is stigma — the negative attitudes and behaviours towards people based on a personal characteristic, such as diagnosis of a mental health condition. In the case of mental illness, it has historically been quite common to look at the condition as a weakness or think negatively about ourselves or others suffering. This needs to change.

Challenging stigma when you see or hear it

Stigma is based on uninformed assumptions. There are ways you can challenge and welcome others to challenge stigma when seeing or hearing it:

  • Speak up — words can help or hurt others. If you hear someone saying stigmatizing or hurtful comments about a person with a mental health condition, speak up. Don’t let misinformation spread or “jokes” go by.
  • Use respectful language. You never know what someone with a mental health condition is dealing with. Be empathetic and respectful and try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
  • Refer to the person, not the disability. Always refer to people with a mental health condition that way. Using terms like “crazy” is unproductive and hurtful.
  • Talk openly about mental health. Mental health is as important as physical health. No one should be embarrassed when talking about it or make someone feel uncomfortable if they want to share how they are feeling. Talk openly and encourage others to do the same.

So, who’s there to help?

There are plenty of tools available to support mental health. One of them is AbilitiCBT, an internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy solution provided by Morneau Shepell. The solution was expanded at the outset of the pandemic to help those struggling to cope with pandemic-related anxiety and depression symptoms brought on by uncertainty, isolation, caring for family and community members, information overload and stress management. The program is guided by professional therapists, easy to use and accessible 24/7 — and it’s free to residents of Ontario and Manitoba who are 16 or older!

By speaking with dignity and respect about mental health, you can help break the stigma and encourage others to share and learn more. If you want to try AbilitiCBT, visit myicbt.com/home.

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