OVERCOMING THE STIGMA OF MENTAL HEALTH
by Nekeshia Hammond, PsyD
It’s an unfortunate but sad reality – sex and violence in the media is deemed more appropriate than talking about mental health in this country. In a nation as free as ours, it’s a shame that something such as this still carries such a stigma leaving people imprisoned in their own minds. Outlets that wouldn’t think twice about depicting a murder, drugs, or nudity will dance around mental health and/or paint it in a negative light. How then, can we overcome the stigma of mental health?
First, and most importantly, we must educate and inform the masses. Talking openly about it is a great step towards shedding the stigma. Educate yourself, then share what you have learned with others – spread the word about the facts, and help correct ignorant stereotypes when you see them creep up.
If you know someone who has mental health issues, or that you suspect is dealing with them don’t judge, and if you can offer help. The truth is people that suffer from mental health issues are often afraid to tell anyone because they don’t want to be judged or treated differently. Showing empathy and compassion, and offering assistance where needed is much more helpful than name calling or shaming.
Seek help if you are personally having a mental health issue, and join a support group so that you won’t be isolated. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given year.” That’s just the adults, and “one in five children ages 13-18 have, or will have a serious mental illness.” You are not alone, and you don’t have to go through this alone.
Overcoming the stigma of mental health starts with each of us. One person taking a stand against the stigma, and then another, and another, until we have large groups – only then will we have any hopes of breaking it. And, that is what we really need right now. As more people learn about these issues and understand them, the better it will be for all of us.
Nekeshia Hammond, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist, speaker, and author of The Practical Guide to Raising Emotionally Healthy Children. She is the 2017 President of the Florida Psychological Association and enjoys advocating in the field of mental health. Dr. Hammond is honored to consult with the media to increase public education about mental health issues, and she has been featured in Life Improvement Radio, CBS Boston, Essence, WFLA News Channel 8, Tampa Bay Times, Ebony, Tampa Bay Parenting, News 4 San Antonio, and more.