If you struggle with mental health, carrying the burden of misinformation and stigma can be exhausting. Though it often feels isolating, we aren’t alone: according to the CDC, 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lives.
When we talk compassionately about mental health, we become advocates for everyone who shares this struggle—including ourselves and our loved ones. In honor of World Mental Health Day, here are 5 simple ways to normalize these conversations in our daily lives.
1. Share your own experiences
Not everyone feels comfortable sharing their story, but for others, it can be empowering. There are lots of everyday opportunities to have open, honest dialogues about our experiences: be transparent with our friends when we need space for a mental health day, share when we start therapy or a new treatment, and speak up when someone misrepresents an issue we struggle with.
Disclosing your mental health history is never an obligation, but if you feel safe and comfortable, sharing your story can help change the conversation about mental health. Honest conversations about mental health show others that they aren’t alone and can help loved ones better understand how to be supportive.
2. Be vocal on social media
You don’t even have to create your own posts—there are hundreds of popular social media accounts dedicated to spreading positivity and information about mental health. There are a lot of benefits to following these organizations and influencers: we can share practical tips with our followers, show support for our friends, and benefit from the added positivity to our own feeds.
Some of our favorite social media pages are:
- @NamiCommunicate on Instagram – The official Instagram page for the National Alliance on Mental Illness shares posts from “What I Wish I’d Known About Medication” to encouraging, easily shareable graphics.
- Active Minds on Facebook – Active Minds is a nonprofit organization dedicated to mental health awareness and education. On their Facebook you can read inspiring survivor stories, share your own journey, and find helpful information about accessing resources.
- Anxiety & Depression Association of America Newsletter – If you’re not one for social media, you can sign up for the Triumph Newsletter from the ADAA. Each month, you’ll receive information about new research on mental health, tips from self care experts, and opportunities to share your own story.
3. Be conscious of your language when talking about mental health
For most of history, symptoms of mental illness were labeled as “insane” and met with abuse. While our scientific understanding of mental illness has come a long way, there are still many misinformed and hurtful beliefs that impact people with mental health problems.
We might not always know when we’re talking about mental health—it may seem like someone we know is acting “crazy” or “delusional” even if we don’t connect those personality changes to mental health struggles. As a rule of thumb, it’s better to use compassion when we don’t understand how someone is acting or feeling, and stay away from language that only serves to be insulting.
This doesn’t just apply to how we talk about others. When we tell ourselves that we’re “crazy” or “weak,” we end up blaming ourselves instead of showing ourselves kindness.
4. Check in on friends and family
Someone struggling with mental health might find it hard to follow through with plans or answer messages. From the outside it can be hurtful to notice when, for example, your friend who isn’t texting you back has been online all day.
If you find yourself in this situation for more than a few days, your friend may be seriously struggling. When a loved one suddenly seems withdrawn, checking on them can show that you care and help reassure you that it’s not personal. Even if they don’t want to talk, just letting them know you’re there for them can go a long way.
5. Set boundaries
When you constantly feel like you have to give your all to everyone, you might end up lacking time and energy for yourself. This is especially true if you and your loved ones face difficulties with mental health.
It can take time to learn that if we don’t feel up to doing something, we don’t have to do it. Practice saying “no” or offering to reschedule when you need a night in with yourself. If you find that any relationship leaves you constantly feeling drained, you might want to set boundaries around how often you talk to or see each other.
This World Mental Health Day, let’s show up for our friends, loved ones, and ourselves. How are you joining the conversation?