World Mental Health Day: Let’s Replace Stigmas with Sensitivity

By Julian Lennon and Tassoula Kokkoris
World Mental Health Day photo by Julian Lennon
You laugh uncontrollably at a friend’s hilarious joke. You gasp in horror because you narrowly escaped an accident. Tears involuntarily stream down your face after hearing a loved one has fallen ill.

Yet no one blinks an eye … because everyone experiences these emotional responses in similar situations.

But what if you can’t face the day because of crippling anxiety, though nothing specific has triggered it? Or perhaps you’re a new mother, stricken with dark thoughts after delivering a healthy baby? Chances are, you could be judged for these very real reactions, though your emotions are simply the result of a current mental health issue.

According to Our World in Data, Nearly 800 million people worldwide navigate challenges with mental health, whether it be depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, paranoia, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, PTSD or any of the other 200 classified forms of mental illness. These issues can happen to people of any race or ethnicity at any age, and may impact everything from physical health, to personal relationships and professional capabilities.

Stuck in Stigmas

The causes of mental illness vary based on a variety of factors. Some are genetic, some are biological, others are triggered by trauma or stress. Just like any physical issue, treatments can come in the form of medicine, lifestyle modifications, therapy or holistic solutions that may utilize environmental or spiritual practices.

Though the numbers show that mental health struggles are as common as poor vision and other physical ailments, there is often shame associated with those disorders, which prevents many from seeking treatment or even getting a proper diagnosis.

What are the root causes of these societal stigmas? Most likely fear and lack of understanding about the illnesses, which is why it’s so important to educate ourselves and share our attained knowledge with our communities.

Turning the Tides

Here are some things we can all do, which may help move people in the right direction where mental health perceptions are concerned:

  • Look Inward. We often don’t realize our self-deprecating tendencies, but if we’re feeling guilty because an aspect of our mental health prevents us from participating in a social situation, or makes it difficult to succeed at work, it’s probably time to take a step back and breathe. We have to remember to forgive ourselves for the internal criticism and move forward at a pace that feels comfortable.
  • Encourage Equality. If we have the power to assign the same amount of importance to mental health as we do physical health in a workplace or family, let’s establish that equality. The more ‘normal’ it is to seek help and healing for mental issues, the less the stigmas associated with those ailments will stick around.
  • Campaign for Compassion. We can participate in this year’s online campaign to Make Mental Health Care for All a Reality.
  • Watch our Language. It’s common to call someone ‘crazy’ who is struggling with their mental health, but it’s not kind.
  • Exercise Empathy. If we recognize someone trying to cope with mental health issues, we should let them know they’re not alone and offer help if we’re equipped to provide it. Sometimes just knowing that another person sees the illness can help ease their pain.
  • Educate and Advocate. None of us know everything about mental illness, so learning about ailments we’re unfamiliar with can help break down barriers of misunderstanding. We can also advocate for awareness with our learnings and help spread the word, once we know better.

Ask for Assistance

If you or someone you know needs help, there are an abundance of resources to assist you—many of which are free of charge. These professionals are in place because they care and can validate what you’re going through; just don’t be afraid to seek them out. After all, if you cut your finger chopping vegetables, you’d quickly apply a Band-Aid. Think of mental health support merely as a psychological bandage. Here are just a few places to start:

  • From navigating the uncertainties of the pandemic to dealing with everyday stress, the World Health Organization (WHO) has tools to help you cope. Access their Mental Well Being page for articles, videos, audio recordings and illustrated guides in a variety of languages meant to be a lifeline in times of need.
  • CheckPoint has pages of global mental health resources divided by country, ailment and age for a convenient way to find quick information.
  • Open Counseling offers a comprehensive list of suicide hotlines, specific to various countries around the world for those who are having thoughts about taking their own life.

Write the email. Initiate the chat. Make the call.

After all, healing begins through compassion and understanding …

Photo (c) Julian Lennon. To view over 10,000 of his images, follow him on Instagram at @julespicturepalace.

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Jacqueline Schäfer
Jacqueline Schäfer
October 10, 2021 05:12

Very well written. We all have to learn more about it. It is so important to create awareness. Thank you for that!

Best wishes from Berlin

October 10, 2021 11:18

Beautiful, intelligent and comprehensive article. Thank you for caring. xxxx

Zsuzsanna Berecz dr.
Zsuzsanna Berecz dr.
October 10, 2021 21:03

Really good writing! Thank you!

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