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.
How To Empower People
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Unwanted Life readers.