Did you know that some 450 million people currently suffer from mental disorders worldwide? Given this staggering number, it’s likely that someone you know is dealing with a mental health condition. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding mental health means that too many of these 450 million people suffer in silence.

Here at ViacomCBS, we want to flip the script on this stigma. And there’s no better time to start the conversation than during Mental Health Month, celebrated every October. The goal of today’s post is to raise awareness about mental health conditions, give them greater visibility, and help create understanding.

These discussions are more important now than ever given the ongoing pandemic. At best, the pandemic has upended our daily routines and brought uncertainty and fear. At worst, it’s created economic hardship and loss. Fostering a culture of understanding and support is the best way to face these challenging times, especially since social isolation is at an all-time high.

With these ideas in mind, let’s jump right in.

Raising Awareness

Becoming more empathetic and supportive starts with raising awareness about mental health conditions. It’s important to recognize that a mental health condition is just like a physical one; it happens due to environmental and biological factors. You’re likely familiar with some of the most common ones, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anorexia
  • Panic attacks

However, these are just a few examples from a long list of conditions that affect a person’s mood, thinking, or feeling. Some have minimal daily impact, while others significantly prevent the person from doing routine things.

Mental health is often considered less important than physical health. In reality, it’s just as critical to our well-being as physical health. When we feel mentally well, we can live everyday lives. Mental health allows us to work productively, have fun in our free time, and be the best we can be for our families, friends, and communities.

Thankfully, there are lots of ways to manage or recover from a mental health condition. A good start includes seeking support from the appropriate mental health professional. Treatment can consist of a combination of counseling, lifestyle changes, counseling, and social support.

Understanding Mental Health Conditions

As we mentioned, many stigmas about these conditions persist. It’s common to think that someone with a mental health condition is unable to handle work. Another misconception is that mental illness is caused by personal weakness.

These stigmas are incredibly damaging. Perhaps the greatest problem is the silence they create, which can lead to long-term suffering. To eliminate them, we must change the way we think and talk about mental health disorders. Educating yourself, speaking out against stereotypes, and avoiding slang or derogatory words are all ways to banish stigma.

Supporting Others

Having honest, open conversations about mental health helps reduce discrimination and remove barriers to treatment. But knowing how to start a discussion with someone who is living with a mental health condition can feel intimidating. Here are some ways to do so:

  • Ask. Lead with a question that shows empathy and concern. Try something like, “It seems like you’re going through a difficult time. Do you want to talk about it?”
  • Be respectful. Listen attentively, and have compassion for their situation.
  • Help. Remind them that assistance is available. If the person needs help finding resources, offer to do so.
  • Be there. Support them by making yourself available to talk, and encourage the person to find a professional that can help them.

Try having these conversations somewhere without distractions, such as over coffee or on a walk. And remember—the other person may need some time to open up. Go at their pace, and let them know you that they can turn to you when they’re ready to talk.

Ways to Support Your Mental Health

You’ve heard it before—you have to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Taking care of those around you is impossible without first taking care of yourself. To wrap up this post, here are a few ways you can support your mental health.

Develop Healthy Habits

Healthy habits help you manage stress and difficult situations. Making small changes like getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well, and taking time to relax can create a significant impact. The importance of these essential habits to our mental health cannot be understated.

Reach Out

Family and friends can be an excellent source of support. If you’re feeling down, reach out to those closest to you. And if you feel you need more support than your loved ones can give, seek the help of a mental health clinician.

Stay Connected

It’s easy to isolate yourself, especially given the pandemic. But even if seeing family and friends in person is impossible, make an effort to connect with them in other ways, like through video calls and text messages.

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