Break the stigma of mental health

Learn what you can do to help and support those with mental illness

Woman on couch meditating


This content is provided to Johns Hopkins employees through a partnership with mySupport and Resources for Living.

The stigma of mental illness can actually keep people from getting better. With the right help and support, people can get better. Learn what you can do to help.

The impact of stigma

Even though mental illness is widespread, it's often treated like a shameful secret. Words such as "crazy" and "bipolar" get thrown around with ease. And some people believe that mental illness is a sign of weakness or makes people dangerous.

Mental health stigma and its effects can be worse than the mental health problem itself because it can lead to isolation, loneliness, shame, and secrecy.

People can get better

Everyone is unique, so it's necessary to find the treatment option that works best for each person's needs. Treatment can include medication, therapy, and wellness plans. The important thing is to reach out and seek help.

"See something, say something"

Mental health intervention starts when you notice changes. Many people worry that speaking up will upset the other person or make the problem worse. But really, it can be the beginning of making it better. Try saying something such as "I'm concerned about you because you seem [down/worried/moody/sad]. Is there something I can do to help you?" This gives the person permission to share, and it shows you're there to listen.

Sometimes people will deny having any problems. But they may take to heart the fact that you noticed and care. If someone you know seems to be very depressed or even suicidal, it's important to speak up. It's OK to say, "Are you thinking of suicide?" Being direct like this won't plant the idea of suicide if it isn't already present. But it will let them know you see them clearly and are concerned.

What you can do to help

You don't have to be a therapist to help someone with a mental illness. Start with yourself, asking _Do I help fight mental health stigma or make it worse? _ And consider these tips:

  • Use respectful language when talking about mental illness
  • Learn more about mental health issues
  • Speak out against mental health stigma

People with mental illness can feel alone. If you think someone is dealing with a mental illness, listen without judgment. Be present. Encourage the person to seek help from a doctor or mental health professional. And convey hope.

It can be about someone else … or you

Just as you would "be there" for someone else, be there for yourself, too. Needing mental health support doesn't make you weak; it makes you human. Getting help is a part of self-care—it's actually a strength.

Join mySupport as it closes out the Mental Health Webinar Series

What We Think and Say Matters: How Unconscious Stigma May Worsen Our Mental Health
Wednesday, May 19, 3 to 4 p.m.
Presented by Julia Riddle, an assistant in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and a postdoctoral fellow in reproductive mental health at the Women's Mood Disorder Center at Johns Hopkins.

Mental Health Awareness and Ethnic Minority Clients
Tuesday, May 25, noon to 1 p.m.
Presented by Norma Day-Vines, a professor of counseling and human development and associate dean for faculty development at the JHU School of Education.

Registration links and additional information are available on the Benefits & Worklife website.

Look out for more resources all this month**

Each week, Resources for Living will share more information and resources in support of mental health awareness. Username: JHU. Password: JHU

mySupport. Make your mental well-being a priority. Johns Hopkins' employee assistance program, mySupport, is here for you—and your household family members and children living away from the home up to age 26—24/7, 365 days a year. Call mySupport at 443-997-7000 for free, confidential help and referrals for any emotional or mental health concerns you may have.

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