Strategies to Elevate Mental Health Among Communities
Mental health is a hugely prevalent issue in today’s society. According to the World Health Organization, one in every eight people lives with a mental disorder. Factors such as social media use and isolation drive these numbers. However, despite the prevalence, most people don’t have access to effective mental health care.
Therefore, now more than ever, there is a need to review strategies to raise mental health awareness, combat stigma, and advocate for improved mental healthcare access within communities. Below are some tips on how we can move closer to that goal.
How to raise mental health awareness
Raising mental health awareness is a pivotal step in creating an environment where seeking help is encouraged. One of the ways to raise awareness is through organizing educational initiatives. These can be implemented in schools and workplaces. This education can help individuals detect early signs of distress in themselves and those around them. They can also learn how to offer appropriate support.
Another way of raising awareness is by engaging the community directly through workshops. Community members can hear from mental health professionals and learn healthy coping mechanisms. Such spaces are also an avenue for open dialogues, where professionals can address any misconceptions in communities.
It would also help to leverage the power of social media. These platforms can help to humanize mental health struggles. For instance, mental health organizations can collaborate with social media content creators to use tools such as hashtags and viral challenges to spark meaningful conversations.
Combating stigma and promoting inclusivity
Most people with mental health issues avoid or delay seeking help for fear of being viewed differently by society. This is because the stigma against people with mental illness is still very much alive – sometimes very subtle, and other times very obvious. It is important to understand the different types of stigma. Below is a breakdown:
- Public stigma: This is the negative attitude that others have about mental illness.
- Self-stigma: This is the negative attitude, such as shame, that people have about their own condition.
- Institutional stigma: This involves the policies that are in place surrounding mental illness. A good example is lower funding for mental illness research compared to other areas of healthcare.
Usually, stigma stems from ignorance and misinformation. Culture also plays a role in perpetuating stigma. For instance, in some Asian cultures, seeking help for mental health issues is frowned upon as it is seen to taint the family name.
However, it is possible to change the narrative gradually. One way of doing this is through the use of personal stories. Sharing a personal story about one’s struggle with mental health takes strength, yet it goes such a long way to reducing societal stigma. Other people struggling with mental health issues can see these stories and realize that it’s normal and there is no shame in seeking help. Personal stories can also drive change as they catch the attention of policymakers and other relevant stakeholders.
When it comes to storytelling, prominent figures can help in the fight against mental health stigma. As they hold significant influence in communities, they can help to humanize the struggles and normalize seeking help. So far, several celebrities have come out to discuss their struggles with mental health – notable examples include Demi Lovato, Chrissy Teigen, Leonardo DiCaprio and Steve Young.
It is also important for us to be mindful and use inclusive language when having discussions about mental health. As a community, our choice of language can subconsciously perpetuate prejudice and discrimination or promote compassion. An example of using inclusive language is using accurate terms. Instead of using words such as ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’, it would be better to use terms such as ‘psychiatric disorder’ or ‘mental illness’. It is also important to ask open-ended questions when talking to people. This gives them the chance to open up about their feelings in detail instead of yes-or-no questions.
It is also vital for mental health professionals to recognize cultural nuances and beliefs. That way, they can formulate approaches that address stigma within diverse communities.
Advocating for improved mental healthcare access
Effective mental healthcare is, among other things, people-centered, trauma-informed, accessible and safe. While there has been notable progress in access to mental healthcare, there is still a long way to go. Policy advocacy is one of the most important strategies to enhance mental healthcare access. Making policy reforms can help ensure that more money goes toward mental health research, insurance coverage and treatments.
It would also help to establish community networks, which can fill in for formal healthcare. These may include crisis hotlines and peer support to provide immediate assistance.
Technology can also help bridge the gap. For instance, telemedicine apps can connect individuals with mental healthcare providers regardless of their location. Therapists can also schedule online therapy sessions, which can reduce the cost to the patient, thus leading to tangible improvements in accessibility. Online resources also help individuals maintain their anonymity so that they don’t have to worry about societal stigma.
It is also important to improve healthcare provider training. Patients can receive competent care when medical schools and healthcare institutions incorporate mental health education. If you are a healthcare provider, you can get special training in mental health. For instance, you can learn how to become a PMHNP and start your journey to making meaningful changes in the mental health world. You can enroll in an online program at a reputable institution such as Rockhurst University. This convenient option allows you to pursue an advanced degree while tending to other areas of your life.
Everyone has a role to play
Mental health profoundly impacts our quality of life. Therefore, it is important to give it the emphasis it deserves. The truth is that everyone has a role to play. Sometimes it takes something as easy as having a heartfelt conversation with a friend to break the barrier. It also takes other efforts, such as educating ourselves about inclusive language and offering our time and resources. Any little change you can make matters!