A photo of four people from different ethnic groups showing support for each other with a group high five to represent the topic of the article - How To Empower People With Mental Health Issues - Wellbeing - Unwanted Life

How To Empower People With Mental Health Issues

Not long ago, I used to be a Time to Change Champion. Unfortunately, they lost their funding and closed down. However, I still try to keep the spirit of Time to Change alive. Such as when I used some of Time to Change‘s material and created two articles (How To Become A Community Mental Health Champion and How To Become A Workplace Mental Health Champion). Writing those two articles led to me writing a follow up one about how to be an effective mental health ally. It’s been a couple of years since I talked about that topic, so today that changes. Today I talk about how to empower people with mental health issues.

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How To Empower People

Celebrate differences

Mental health issues are very common, with 1 in 4 people having a one. Such mental health issues add to the many differences that exist within society. When I was a child, differences weren’t celebrated at all. Kids got picked on for being overweight, for wearing glasses, but for me, I was picked on for not being white.

Although it might not seem like it, the world is changing. There are many opportunities to celebrate our differences, starting in childhood and in schools right throughout our lives. That’s was one of the things Time to Change stood for.

So while we teach our children about different ethnic groups, cultures, disabilities, and the LGBTQIA+ community, let’s also teach them about mental health. As I said in a pervious article about hearing voices, mental health issues aren’t always a negative. Some people can benefit from their mental health issues. People can also offer us unique insights into how the world works.

Stigma

This was the core of Time to Change‘s mission, to reduce the stigma around mental illness so we could empower people. I became a Time to Change Champion to do just that, by sharing my experiences of living with mental illnesses to help people to understand.

Now, you don’t have to share your mental health issues with other people if you don’t want to. That’s not what this section is about. It’s about challenging mental health stigma wherever you see it and educating yourself about mental health. Knowledge is power for a reason. When it comes to mental health, that knowledge can also empower people within your society and within your own circle of friends and family.

If the people you know believe you don’t subscribe to the usual mental health stigma that still exists, then they may come to you for support. This can literally save lives. People rarely seek the mental health support they need, which can lead to them taking their own lives.

If you would like to learn more about how you can support someone with their mental health, then check out my articles on the topic by clicking here, here, here, and here.

I’ve worked with a client that was so consumed by society’s stigma about mental health issues that they had self-stigma. We spent a lot of time undoing the damage of this stigma, but when the client was out from under it, they were already in a far better place. Without even engaging in what people consider treatment. Removing that stigma removed their sense of shame, which is liberating.

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Use inclusive language

There are other things you can do to help reduce stigma around mental health issues. One of those things is to use inclusive language. When it comes to mental health, inclusive language would cover words and statements like, “they’re crazy for trying that”, “you’re bonkers”, “funny farm”, “you’re mad”, etc.

I had a discussion about this with the people I’m working with as part of an art collaboration. The people I’m working with were concerned about their use of one of the non-inclusive words that came out naturally while we were filming the project. The project didn’t have a script, with the purpose of the project being to help people understand psychosis. For me, I wasn’t bothered by the use of it because it reflects the natural response of society. I feel that’s important to the art project we were trying to create.

But, people watching the finished film might see that differently. Which is kind of the point, because it’ll help get a conversation going not only about psychosis but about the language we use.

However, even though I’m a mental health blogger and I know these words are non-inclusive, they still slip out of my mouth. These words have been in everyday use my entire life, so unlearning that is going to take time. And that’s ok. If it slips out, call yourself out for it and continue to try to do better. You won’t be able to remove these words and phrases from your vocabularies overnight.

Ask twice

In British culture, we ask how you are as a greeting, not because we want to know how you’re actually doing. It’s an annoying habit our entire society has, often confusing people who aren’t British. However, it comes with a silver lining. Most people, British or not, might not answer honestly when someone asks how they are. People will just say “I’m fine” because that’s what’s expected or because they don’t want to be a burden. Therefore, it’s important to ask twice if you do actually want to know.

When Time to Change was still operating, they created a campaign about asking twice to empower people to support their friends, family, and coworkers. Asking how someone is twice, to the people in your life, will empower them to talk to you, because you’re creating an empathetic space for them to open up.

The picture is split in two with the top image being of a four girls standing with their backs to the camera and making hearts together with their hands above their heads. The bottom image being of a demonstration calling for unity and support. The two images are separated by the article title - How To Empower People With Mental Health Issues - Wellbeing - Unwanted Life

Listen

Your job isn’t to fix anyone, but to help people feel comfortable to talk openly about their struggles. All you need to do is listen, ask open-ended questions where appropriate, and support them. Don’t tell them what you think they should do, but rather help them find their own solutions. This could also involve helping them to find information on their behalf.

Telling people what you think they should do can have a negative impact on a person. However, if they can be helped to find their own answers, then their self-esteem and self-worth can get a boost. This boost can then help with the rest of their recovery.

Non-judgement

Create an aura around you that lets people know you won’t be judging them, especially if they come to you for support. Most people don’t seek help for their mental health because they fear judgement because of the stigma that’s attached to it. So always try to keep an open mind.

Small things

As is often the case in life, it’s the small things that make the biggest difference. Small conversations about mental health can help challenge stigma. This can be anything from talking about an article you’ve read about mental health to discussing self-care ideas. It doesn’t have to require effort to reduce mental health stigma.

Praise

Everyone likes to get praise, even if it’s for minor accomplishments. If someone talks to you about their mental health, praise them for having the strength to do so. Should they take action to do something about their mental health, praise them for doing so. Praise and positive reinforcement can do wonders for motivation and commitment.

Validate

If there’s one thing I know about mental health issues, is that most people don’t believe they’re bad enough to get support. These kinds of comparisons can be deadly. By validating people’s feelings and the situation they may be in, rather than minimising it, you can help people to be more open. It doesn’t take much to validate what’s someones told you.

Saying something like, “it sounds like you’ve been having a tough time” or “I understand why you’d find that upsetting” is enough. It might not seem like much, but this will empower people to talk about their issues and get the support they need.

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Summary

The ideas listed in this article about how you can help empower people with mental health issues are all pretty simple to do. They may seem daunting at first, but once you implement them, you’ll realise they’re actually quite simple.

Making an effort to empower people is not only good for the person you’re empowering, but society at large as well. As a rule of thumb, just treat people like you’d want to be treated if you were in that situation and were struggling.

As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences with trying to empower people in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.

Lastly, if you’d like to support my blog, you can make a donation of any size below. Until next time, Unwanted Life readers.

 

 

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40 thoughts on “How To Empower People With Mental Health Issues

  1. It is a much-needed and informative article. Nowadays, the problem of mental health is crucial because many people suffer, cannot cope with problems, and are afraid to ask for help. Your tips are simple to implement, so it’s worth making a little effort to empower people.

  2. I like the ask twice section. Here in America we also ask as a greeting and no one gives an honest answer. I’ll have to try it.

  3. There are all thoughtful and sensitive ways to empower everyone, especially those who struggle with mental health. Thanks for sharing 💜

  4. Fantastic article…and timely (it’s like a sixth sense)! Empowerment is huge and so good for the world as a whole. If we all work together and support one another, we actually can change the world. Thank you for sharing some great ideas and tips to help others (and ourselves)! ✌️

  5. Great post! I chuckled a little when you mentioned about British people asking, ‘how are you’, but not really wanting to know how you are. Same in American culture, btw. If I ask the question to friends, and they say ‘fine’, I will say ‘okay…fine…so now tell me how you’re really doing’ and I’ll get the real answer.

    • You’re not the first person to have mentioned that about the US. I wonder how many other countries do that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences

  6. Empowering people with mental issues doesn’t require grand gestures that put you out or make you feel uncomfortable. It starts with the simple things such as validating emotions and feelings, listening, breaking the stigma by educating yourself and sharing information with others, and treating everyone with the same respect and compassion you would like to receive when your struggling. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  7. This is excellent. All these things are so simple, yet they can have a big impact. I have been very focused on inclusive language lately and, as you say, it’s so easy for these expressions we’ve been using our entire life to just slip out. Just being aware of the impact of your words is an important step in the right direction.

    And I love the idea of asking twice.

    • Indeed. No one expects you to stop using these words on day one, but having an awareness about their impact is a great first step. Thank you for sharing your thoughts

  8. Love the idea of asking twice and listening! Things like this are easy to get into the habit of doing and make a big difference to people who are struggling or just need to feel like they have meaning and ability. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  9. Your blog has rapidly become one of the weekly treats to read. And this one didn’t dissapoint. There is so much to unpack here, but the topic itself is should be addressed in our society as a whole. As we are learning to accept the diversity in our world, far too late in my opinion, we also need to learn that not everyone views the world and themselves and the stereoptypical “good life”. Keeping an open mind to the struggles people have and asking twice how people are doing will help us increase our acceptance. Thank you.
    Ps. as an English teacher, I’ve unlearned something because of your post. Regarding the greeting. Instead of teaching my students to just say fine, I will teach them how to express their proper feelings better.

    • Thank you very much ☺️ I’m glad you’re going to be teaching your students to express their proper feelings, instead of being trapped in the social convention of just saying fine. Thank you for sharing your thoughts

  10. This is a great article!! So many facts and they are so helpful. Mental health is important and I’m glad that you speak out about it.

  11. UnwatedLife, this is a very enlightening article. I agree with your point of using inclusive languages.

    I grew up unknowingly using certain phrases or words that does not support those living with mental health conditions. I also had to re-learn and become more conscious of what I say around people.

    I personally could not work as a Therapist; I think it’s an emotionally draining job. However, I started a FB group Beer Ur Mental Health that aims to break down the stigmas of mental illnesss. We all can play a part in very small ways.

    • Indeed we can all play our part. I’ve been working with an arts council to create a piece of art about my episodes of psychosis. I’m also helping to set up an organisation to challenge mental health stigma as well. But you don’t have to do something that requires that level of investment, just pick something that you’re comfortable with, just like you did with starting that FB group

  12. Great suggestions here. I like the ask twice point – I used to get confused with the how are you greeting because no one in my family ever said it to each other. So when someone in the real world asked, I told them how I really was and it ended up being quite awkward lol but now I know that people just say it to greet each other. It’s a good tip to ask this twice, it’s so important to get people to open up and let it all out. Thanks for sharing. Jade MumLifeandMe

    • It’s such a strange social convention to use a question of how someone is doing to be used as just a greeting, with the expected “I’m fine” lie as a reply. Thank you for sharing your experience

  13. You make some great points here. I think the one that I loved most, however, was the idea of teaching the next generation to be open and accepting. We have all seen efforts being made to introduce a more accepting mindset in children in many countries pertaining to sexuality, culture, religion, etc. It wouldn’t be too hard to include mental health as well. Just imagine the world that we could create if every generation focused on the next being even more accepting than the last…

  14. Listening closely is huge. Everyone seems to be in a rush. Few take the time to ask once, or twice, as you noted, THEN to patiently wait for 5-10 seconds – or even longer – for someone to express their genuine feelings. I cleared many demons by being with people who asked me how I felt then gave me ample space to express my fears, grief, guilt and sometimes, my rage.

    I still felt like an idiot, loser, bum and weak, but at least I moved these emotions along to feel more free, empowered and peaceful.

    This post is important because not only did you break down how to empower folks who are struggling you also shine the spotlight on these issues to help dissolve the stigma. In truth, only the enlightened souls of the world have zero mental health issues. Anyone plagued by fear and seeing through the illusion of ego can use some help and space to let go their dark shadows.

    Thanks for sharing with us.

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