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Challenging Stigma

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Stigma and discrimination

Mental health problems are common, affecting thousands of us in the UK. Despite this, there is still a strong stigma (negative attitude) around mental health. People with mental health problems can also experience discrimination (negative treatment) in all aspects of their lives.

This stigma and discrimination make many people's problems worse. It can come from society, employers, the media, and even our friends and family. You may even experience internalised stigma, where you come to believe the negative messages or stereotypes about yourself.

It is vital that as a community we challenge the stigma and discrimination linked to mental health.

Challenging stigma

Here are some ways you can help to challenge stigma:

  • Speak out – this can involve making a statement which shows your disapproval. It is possible to make small, individual stands like speaking out or signing a petition.
  • Show people reliable and accurate information – this can help people to understand more, making them less likely to judge. The Start a Conversation website provides reliable information and signposting.
  • Talk about your experience – if you're ready to, sharing your story and having more conversations about mental health and suicide can help to improve people's understanding. This could involve joining a panel or network that aims to listen to lived experience and use it to improve outcomes.
  • Get involved in a campaign – use Start a Conversation resources or join the campaign to help raise awareness.

For more information on stigma, the affect it can have and advice on dealing with it, you can visit these trusted websites:

Myths about mental health

Take a read through some of the common misconceptions about mental health below.

Only people with problems have mental health.

False: We all have mental health that can move up and down, day to day, just like our physical health.

Mental health problems are rare.

False: Mental Health problems affect one in four people in any one year. So, even if you don't have a mental health problem, it is likely your friend, family member or colleague will be affected

People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.

False: The most common mental health problems have no significant link to violent behaviour. The violence myth makes it harder for people to talk openly about mental health problems and it can also make friends reluctant to stay in touch.

People can't recover from mental illness.

False: Mental health problems don't define a person or their potential in life. Many people can and do recover from mental illness. Alongside professional help, the support of friends, family and getting back to work are all important in helping people to recover.

There's not much you can do to help a friend experiencing a mental health problem.

False: If someone you know if experiencing a mental health problem, just staying in touch can really help. For many people, it is the small things that friends do that can make a difference.

People can't work if they have a mental health problem.

False: Many successful people, including MPs, sports stars and business leaders have been open about difficulties with their mental health.

You only need to take care of your mental health if you have a mental health problem.

False: Everyone can benefit from taking active steps to promote their well-being and improve their mental health.

A mental health problem is a sign of weakness.

False: A mental health problem has nothing to do with being weak or lacking willpower. It is not a condition people choose to have or to not have. In fact, recognising the need to accept help for a mental health problem requires great strength and courage.

Using appropriate language

Words are a barrier to help-seeking and a motivator for making discrimination acceptable. Our language - the words we use either consciously or unconsciously are important in reinforcing or challenging either stigmatising or positive attitudes.

The below resource from Mind outlines common inaccurate terminology, and offers alternative suggestions.

Emergency Help

Call 999 if there is a threat to life

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