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Fighting Stigma: How to Talk?

So today is #TimetoTalk day, a day for open and honest conversations about mental health. Now, I talk and write a lot about fighting the stigma towards mental illness and about my own story, but if you haven’t ever spoken about mental health before, actually speaking up for the first time can be really scary and difficult.

It’s normal in this society to worry about being judged according to stereotypes and stigmas if we speak openly about our struggles, so many of us will feel ashamed or embarrassed and stay quiet. The time for those feelings of shame needs to be over.

The worst part is, when we stay quiet because of these stigmas, we allow the world to go on misunderstanding mental illness and allow these stigmas to continue.

So, you might agree and want to try and speak differently about mental health, but you don’t know how. I know, not everyone is going to just start a blog or start posting all over social media when they are struggling, so the simplest advice I can give is just to start with honesty.

If you find yourself in a conversation where you might usually edge around the subject of your mental health, try to face it head on and say something honest about how you feel or have felt. Even if the person you’re talking to hasn’t experienced it before and might not understand, or even want to, straight away, the more people we can get talking, and listening, even briefly, the better.

In a similar boat, if you over hear someone using words or phrases that encourage stigmas towards mental illness, speak up. It is crazy daunting at first, but even just saying “Excuse me, I actually find what you’re saying quite inaccurate and offensive,” and proceeding to try and spread a little honest information about mental health can help spread understanding. (And leave you feeling super strong and empowered!)

Obviously, there is a line of privacy, and not everything needs to be shared. If people pry further than you feel comfortable discussing when you’re having these conversations, it is completely okay to tell them that. Share whatever amount feels right for you. But try to share something.

The best thing I ever did for my mental health was start to talk about it. I know that a lot more of my close friends and family understand me and my needs a lot better now, and I feel extremely proud that I created that safety of understanding in my life. All it takes is a bit of a brave jump, and all the honesty we can find.

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