Ending the Stigma: The Key to an Open Mental Health Discussion

Updated on May 19, 2021

Although the mental health industry has made significant improvements and advancements in the past decade in regard to technology, affordability, and research, there are still a few negative stigmas that surround mental health care conversations. Discussions about therapy and psychological treatment are still considered taboo in many areas while there are still misconceptions and misinformation surrounding topics about medicine and management practices

Having more candid and positive conversations about therapy is a great way to be a part of ending the negative stigma surrounding these discussions. You don’t need a degree to be considered educated and well researched on the subject; while you should do your best to leave yourself open to correction, there are a few basic do’s and don’ts to know when you’re taking the initiative on an open mental health conversation.  

What Not to Do

It’s important to note that there isn’t an official list of things you absolutely should avoid in conversation; everyone has different tolerances to various topics and if you’re unsure about what’s taboo and what’s actually ill-advised to discuss, a mental health professional can help walk you through your thoughts. Online services like MyTherapist can connect you with an available counselor to answer mental health questions and concerns.

Self-Deprecating Jokes

Creating an open discussion typically relies on making a comfortable environment to interact with. Self-deprecating jokes typically revolve around putting oneself down for a form of dark humor. For some people, this can create an awkward situation: if they’re already unused to talking about mental health conditions, they may not know how to respond to a self-deprecating joke on the situation. 

Self-Diagnosis: Accusations & Encouragement

The point of a mental health discussion shouldn’t necessarily be to diagnose yourself and others; on a similar note, if someone is speculating they may have a mental health condition, accusing them of self-diagnosis is another negative response. Self-diagnosis is stating you “have” a condition without consulting a professional, often just going off of similar symptoms you’ve seen online or heard from others. Instead, you and your peers can turn the conversation to therapy options and encourage an official diagnosis if someone is concerned they may have a condition.

How to Help

In contrast to not having an official list of “Absolute No’s”, there are a few “Absolute Yes’s” to talk about in order to normalize mental health discussions. While the best course of action is still to consult a mental health professional, these are a few ways you can create a conducive and open environment.

Using Research

While you don’t need to become an expert overnight, it’s important to use supporting evidence and research to have a more accurate conversation. It’s similar to how you would typically discuss a study or article about a new economic breakthrough, bringing to the table some existing information you have to support or refute the news. 

Understanding Differences

One of the main reasons it’s important to occasionally do your own background research is because everyone’s conditions can be different. While there are certain common symptoms and tests that can be taken to officially diagnose someone, from the perspective of a friend, family member, or colleague, the nuances can look vastly different. This doesn’t necessarily mean someone doesn’t have a mental health condition; a seemingly happy and productive person can be working with what’s known as “high-functioning” depression or anxiety. 

Normalizing Therapy

Even experts are constantly learning – therefore it’s important for people to normalize consulting a mental health professional if there seems to be a disagreement or disconnect in information. Normalizing therapy for general life advice, preemptive measures, and regular wellness checks can help contribute to ending a negative stigma. While it’s the right place to go if you have mental health concerns or conditions, it’s also a place you can turn to for advice on daily stressors, family problems, or even life decisions. 

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