The biggest changes in my life usually come from tiny — but consistent — actions. These habits can have an outsized impact on my mental health and the work that I do.
Established campaigns and national days for mental health are an important part of spreading awareness. But there are many other ways we can shift perceptions and support mental health every day.
Based on my personal experience as a mental health advocate for The One Project, here are six ways we can incorporate mental health awareness into our daily routines and local communities.
1. Check in and dig deeper with friends and loved ones
The One Project community often mentions that just having someone who listens without judgement is the single most helpful form of support.
Haven’t heard from a friend in some time, or know they’re going through a particularly difficult time? Be proactive.
Reach out and check in. Ask twice if they dismiss you as if everything’s OK. Drive them to an appointment or accompany them to their doctor or mental health professional for the first time if they’re nervous.
2. Speak more openly about your condition
Stories we often hear about mental health are often extreme or condensed versions of a person’s history. What about the everyday ways that depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions affect life?
Regularly sharing your experiences can help others understand what it’s like to have a mental health condition and reduce stigma.
Don’t forget to add in the more neutral, humorous, or positive aspects of living with a condition. It’s not to make light of what you’re going through, but it does provide a full and balanced picture of what life is really like.
3. Correct someone (gently) if they say something stigmatizing or incorrect
Point out when a story, a joke, or a phrase about mental health is stigmatizing or untrue. Approach it gently and with kindness. Speaking up can be difficult, especially if you have anxiety. But it’s important.
Stereotypes are often embedded in our minds from movies, books, and other media, so explain how hearing these perceptions may hurt others (yourself, if applicable). Share how the research shows that a particular perception is actually false.
4. Promote mental health discussions in the workplace
Talk with your workplace about implementing and supporting mental health days for employees.
Ask your manager or HR department if the company has programs in place for employees’ mental health. If there aren’t any, point to the need for and benefit of these systems. Perhaps organize other employees to ask for change if your company isn’t initially receptive to the idea.
Work freelance? Give yourself time off and set proper boundaries with your clients to put your mental health first.
5. Host or get involved in a community support group
Local or online support groups build community. If you get involved, you’ll likely meet others who are going through similar issues and have a consistent outlet for the assistance and encouragement you need.
Can’t find a group in your area? Consider hosting or helping to organize one, whether it’s just for your friends and close network or for your broader community.
6. Work to improve our language around mental health
It can be really hard sometimes to know the right thing to say. It’s easy to accidentally put pressure or judgement on someone who’s going through a difficult time.
There are lots of helpful tips and guides online. Here’s a quick guide on some responses to help support someone with depression.
These are only a few of the ways that we can begin improving our collective understanding of mental health. Regularly taking little actions makes it easier to speak openly about the struggles we all face. Hopefully by doing this, we can reduce stigma and support each other.
I look forward to that day!
The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.
NPS-US-NP-00648 MAY 2020