Mental illness discrimination has a long, pervasive history. Many widely held negative and false beliefs about people with experience of mental distress have endured in all communities, despite changes in law and health practices.
These negative beliefs lead to social exclusion where people are unable to fully participate in all levels (social, political and economic) of the community they live in. Discrimination happens when someone behaves badly toward someone based on stereotyped or prejudiced beliefs.
One of the biggest hurdles for anyone experiencing mental distress is overcoming this discrimination. Discrimination is one of the main reasons why so many people living with mental distress do not seek help.
We can all help end discrimination and champion social inclusion. Here are some ideas:
Is your knowledge about mental health accurate? Did you know that most people who experience mental distress recover? If you know little about mental health, take the time to learn and understand. Knowing how to distinguish between the facts and the myths about mental illness can be a great way to help end discrimination.
Words can help, but they can also hurt. The way we speak can affect the way other people think, speak and behave. Don’t use hurtful or derogatory language, such as “schizo” or “psycho”. Sayings like “you’ll get over it” and “just relax” can minimize how a person is feeling. The words you use can make all the difference to a person’s wellbeing and recovery – choose them carefully.
When someone seems upset, ask if they need help. See people as unique human beings, not as labels or stereotypes. Whether it be a smile, or an invitation for coffee and a chat, simple acts of kindness can help open up the conversation and let someone know you are there for them.
Break the silence. Mental illness touches us all in some way. People with mental distress make valuable contributions to society. Stories of people who have experienced mental distress and who are doing well can challenge the myths and stereotypes. Let’s highlight the positive stories.
Treat people experiencing mental distress with dignity and respect. Think about how you’d like others to act toward you if you were in the same situation. If you have whānau, friends or work colleagues experiencing mental distress, support their choices and encourage their efforts to get well. Being there for people you care about, and asking how you can help, can be the first step in recovery.
These are just some ways that you can help reduce mental health discrimination.
Join us today and make your own personal pledge to end mental illness discrimination.