Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes has been a fantastic supporter in raising awareness of mental health issues in this country. In her partnership with Bell, the athlete continues to be a role model in talking about how to break the stigma associated with mental illness. In Bell’s recent campaign with Clara as their spokesperson, experts suggest five ways to help:
1. Language matters. Choose the right words. People with a mental illness are just that. People with a mental illness. Not :crazy,” “bipolar,” or “schizophrenic.” Too many people still dismiss or joke about mental illness. Would they be as comfortable doing so if they were talking about cancers?
2. Be kind. Small acts of kindness, such as a get-well card or an invitation to coffee, can mean a lot to someone who is struggling with a mental illness. Ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you had a serious illness and use that as your guide.
3. Educate yourself. Learn more about mental illnesses and the stigma that surrounds them. Educating yourself about mental illness and how it actually affects those who suffer will help reduce misperceptions and sterotypes. The more you know, the more you can talk about it in a constructive way.
4. Listen and ask. Be wary of giving advice. People with a mental illness don’t want to hear that they’re “just going through a bad patch” or that they should remember they have a lot of be happy about. It’s like telling someone with heart disease they need to snap out of it. Ask and listen to what they have to say about their illness.
5. Finally, and most importantly, start a conversation about mental health with everyone close to you. Because everyone has someone in their life that has been impacted by mental illness. Talk about it, and you’ll be talking a big step in helping to create a stigma-free world where those who need help don’t fear asking for it.
Learn more at bell.ca/letstalk
– courtesy of Bell, reprinted from Globe and Mail ad Jan. 24, 2015