By Laura Greenstein
Together, we are a movement. Our movement explains what it really means to experience mental illness. Our movement shows people experiencing mental illness that they are not alone and there is hope. While it’s a slow process, our movement is becoming louder and more persistent every time a celebrity speaks out, an article is published or an individual shares their personal story. Our movement is growing, strengthening and becoming more visible.
We need to keep this momentum going. The harder we work, the more people will learn, understand and empathize. The societal perception of mental illness won’t change if we don’t work to change it. So, here are just a few ways we can continue to push our cause forward:
Start conversations. To reduce mental illness-related stigma, we need to feel comfortable having conversations about it. The more we talk about mental health conditions, the more normalized it becomes. Starting the conversation is the first step.
Correct stigmatizing language. Language won’t evolve unless people realize their words are hurtful. Calling someone “insane” or “crazy,” defining a person by their condition or using mental health adjectives are all harmful habits that perpetuate stigma. If you hear someone using stigmatizing language, let them know.
Share your story. Sharing mental health struggles helps spread the word that mental illness is real. And sharing mental health recovery stories helps spread the word that if you live with a mental illness, you can get better.
Become an author. One of the best ways to spread awareness is through writing. Articles circulate all over social media and the Internet. They can be seen by thousands, even millions, of people. If you have something to say or a piece of advice, don’t hesitate to share your wisdom with the world-wide web.
Represent the cause. There are many ways to show that mental health is an important cause to you, but it’s even more
Educate. Teach people about mental illness by becoming a NAMI In Our Own Voice presenter or teaching NAMI Ending the Silence to a group of young people. Be the one who teaches someone struggling that what they’re going through isn’t their fault and how they can get help.
Advocate. With the current mental health system, not everyone is getting the services and treatment they need. When you see an opportunity to influence your local government about mental health legislation, call, email or tweet at them to let them know the importance of mental health care.
Volunteer. There are so many ways to get involved—volunteer for an information line or crisis line, walk or volunteer at your local NAMIWalk, join a NAMI on Campus club—it’s up to you how you can support the movement.
Your effort to end stigma, to advocate for mental health reform, and to build better lives for those affected by mental illness are the reasons why our movement is growing stronger every day. We appreciate your support and everything you do to make our cause visible.