By Lucie Huang
Even though the topic of Mental Health has become increasingly popular on mainstream and social media, it can still prove to be a difficult subject to navigate and talk about.
One in four Canadians experience anxiety and one in eight Canadians suffer from a mood disorder such as depression, so why do we have so much trouble opening up to each other about it? To break down stigma and create positive change around the community, there are many simple steps you can take to support yourself and others’ mental wellbeing. It’s okay not to be okay, and there are ways to manage your own health and leave a positive mark in the lives of others.
Many mental illnesses are heavily stigmatized simply because people don’t know enough about them or don’t talk about them enough. To break that barrier, you shouldn’t be afraid to approach the topic of mental health and mental illness; instead, try to engage in meaningful conversation around these subjects. To start, learning more about mental health can be helpful in providing the correct information and tips on how to be a good listener to others. Whether it be searching for specific mental health related advice, listening to podcasts, or reading more about the common symptoms of disorders, educating yourself not only expands your knowledge, but helps you become more aware and experienced when discussing serious topics. But as everyone’s experience with mental health differs, it’s also important to listen to others and their unique experiences, which can help everyone gain a more nuanced understanding of what mental illnesses can look like for everyone.
Use Inclusive Language
When discussing serious topics, it’s important to use inclusive language to help break harmful stigmas and stereotypes, especially those surrounding mental health. Oftentimes, people unintentionally use generalizing language that over exaggerates and ridicules mental illness, like “I’m so depressed” to describe feeling sad, or saying “You’re so OCD” when someone is organized. These terms not only oversimplify serious mental illness, but they also provide wrong definitions and enforce stereotypes about people who actually have those illnesses. Instead, avoid using terms that do not accurately describe one’s condition, and try to point them out if you see someone using them around you. Changing the smallest words can make a big difference, especially to those who are experiencing mental health challenges.
Finally, it’s key to keep compassion at the forefront and to listen with an open mind and a non-judgemental attitude. Body language and expressions that show that you’re open to conversations and actively listening can make others aware that you care and are understanding and accepting of them. This can help cultivate a community where everyone feels safe and comfortable to share and be vulnerable around one another. Through small acts of kindness, like checking up on friends and family members when they feel down, offering help to neighbors, or simply being there for a co-worker or classmate, compassion can be spread across the community. The simplest actions can sometimes mean the most to people.
Above all, don’t forget to show love to yourself.
During busy or difficult times, remember to be kind to yourself the same way you would to your best friend or family. Always prioritize your own health and happiness, and give yourself sufficient breaks and rest periods to recharge. You’ve got this.
We hope this guide was able to help you discover some easy ways to spread positivity, support and inclusion around your community. Kindness starts small, and is a snowball that builds and builds with more and more people. In the busy month of February, remember to take care of yourself and others, and do your best to create light in your life.