• Jessica Rieder

Mental Health Stigmas Over Time

A lot can change in ten years, but something that will remain the same as time goes on is that there are many mental health conditions that surround us in our everyday life. Despite the commonality of these struggles, they’re surrounded by stigmas and judgements that can be extremely harmful. What are these stigmas, how have they changed in the last decade, and what still needs to change?

The social stigma of mental health is defined by Psychology Today as “prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behaviour directed towards individuals with mental health problems as a result of the psychiatric label they have been given.” This happens mostly because without education on mental health, many of its symptoms are considered threatening or uncomfortable.

In the last decade, we have seen a number of celebrities step up to the plate to inform and educate people on the realities of mental health issues and how detrimental the stigmas can be to people seeking help. “I just feel like people [are] being a lot more open with mental health, like, being more vulnerable themselves opens up the door for other people being more vulnerable about the struggles that we all have,” Lindsey Bucki, La Follette psychologist said. “Before people were more scared to talk about it, so I’ve definitely seen a lot of celebrities taking that on and I think it opens the door up for a lot of people,” Bucki continued.

Demi Lovato has been one extremely powerful celebrity in bringing mental health out into the open and encouraging education and communication on the topic. Since 2015, she’s been a spokesperson for Be Vocal, an initiative that helps promote positive mental health stories on the internet and social media. She’s also extremely open about her personal struggles with bipolar disorder, bulimia and substance addiction, and released a personal documentary on the topics. On top of that, she co-owns CAST Centers, which stands for Comprehensive Assistant Support Treatment. This is the very wellness and recovery center that she was a patient at, where they helped her with a substance abuse struggle. She even brought a CAST on-tour experience to everybody who had a ticket to her 2018 tour. They had speakers and offered many resources to those who were having a hard time.

Chris Evans, best known for his role as Marvel’s Captain America, opened up about his social anxiety in a 2016 interview with The Rolling Stone. He brought up how it affects him at Red Carpet events like Movie Premieres, and said he’s used meditation and Buddhist texts to help him. He credited acting as one of the main times when he didn’t feel the weight of his anxiety. “That part of your brain just gets quiet. The noise goes away. You’re just leaned into the experience. You’re really riding the wave of just living,” he explained. It’s not uncommon for somebody struggling with mental health to pour themselves into their art form as an escape, but it isn’t always discussed so openly. By doing this, Evans not only became another public face for these problems, but also suggested a good coping strategy.

Another person opening up to help others is Kid Cudi, who in 2016 took to Facebook to share that he had checked himself into rehab for depression and suicidal thoughts. The rapper wrote, "I'm tired of being held back in my life. I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling." He was met with incredible support and a Twitter hashtag, #YouGoodMan, was created to encourage black men to open up about their mental health experiences. It also sparked a discussion on the intersection of race, masculinity, and mental health. It was a big step forward in destigmatizing mental health struggles in the media and including more people to the conversation.

While there are many more advocates now, there is still a long way to go in the way that mental health is viewed in our society. More education needs to be spread, and everybody can have a positive influence. A simple thing you can do to help is to watch your words carefully. Throwing around terms such as, “I’m going to kill myself”, or “You’re depressing me” can be harmful to everybody and can feel demeaning to people’s personal struggles and experiences. You can also show compassion to those with mental illnesses, educate yourself and others, and talk openly about it. Most importantly, choose empowerment over shame. Needing to ask for help is never something somebody should feel bad about; we’re all human and we all go through things. “I think just recognizing and being okay with being human, that we all have these emotions, and we all should just talk about it more so we can be there for each other,” Bucki suggested. “I think that’s the only way to end the stigma or make an impact on the stigma,” she finished.

No matter how your life is affected by mental health and mental illness, you can make a positive difference.

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