Using ‘Teachable Moments’ To Dispel Mental Health Stigma
When the opportunity arises for you to educate others about mental health, seize it––and help de-stigmatize these conditions that affect so many people.
In my current role as a community advocate, I’m always looking for opportunities to educate the general public about mental health. This is sometimes in presentations to groups. There are other times that are more personal.
I was at my daughter’s track meet this week and was chatting with another parent. She saw the green ribbon I was wearing and asked what it was for. I proceeded to inform her that it was in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month.
Well, this prompted a brief, but interesting conversation. The first thing she said was, “My mother always tells me I talk too much, but I have this cousin…..” She proceeded to explain that her cousin has Bipolar Disorder and “What is that thing where you hear voices?”
“Schizophrenia,” I replied.
The woman then proceeded to explain that her cousin has had problems since she was young and is in a “nut house” (she then apologized for using that term). I explained that I work for a local mental health agency and that I do trainings and advocacy work.
I then took the opportunity to inform her about the statistic that 1 out of 5 individuals live with a diagnosable mental illness. I also informed her that many people only have one “episode” in their lives.
I stressed the importance of being open about mental health and that if more people did so perhaps we wouldn’t have some of the pervasive issues that we currently have in our society.
I try to take the opportunity to educate people with whom I speak about the facts of mental health and help to de-stigmatize these conditions that affect so many people.
Do you try to educate others? What has been your experience?