How to Be a Mental Health Ally
Being a mental health ally is much needed to help combat mental health stigma. Although, 1 in 5 people struggle with mental illness, there still seems to be a lack of education when it comes to mental health.
Advocating for mental health is probably a lot easier than you had anticipated. A lot of it comes down to educating yourself. Like any other marginalized group, educating yourself is key to fighting the stigma.
What is a mental health ally?
Firstly, what even is a mental health ally? A mental health ally is someone who strives to educate themselves and others on mental illness. They are also willing to stand up against stigma and prejudice whenever they see it.
If this interests you, keep reading for tips on becoming a helpful mental health ally.
Use appropriate language
The stealing and misuse of our labels, from our diagnoses to our symptoms, is unfortunately the norm to people unexperienced in the mental health community.
I’m sure you’ve heard someone claim to be “so OCD” because they just organized their room, or call the unpredictable weather “so Bipolar.” And although there is no malice behind these statements, minimizing serious illnesses, and comparing them to everyday occurrences, is disrespectful.
I’d suggest learning about what these actual illnesses and accompanied symptoms look like. Given that lack of education in mental health, you probably have an inaccurate idea of what these terms actually entail.
If someone comes to you and shares something about their illness, remember that it was probably difficult for them open up.
Mental illness is still a taboo subject for most. But validating how they feel, and attentively listening, can make people coming forward with their mental health stories a whole lot easier.
If you hear someone using a stereotype or insult about mental illness, call it out. Tell them why what they’re saying is harmful, and educate them on the realities and history of the words they use. You could even offer alternatives they can say instead.
Share your story
If you struggle with mental health yourself, sharing your story can help break the stigma. It’s easy for people to see mental health stats and not see someone behind those numbers. But sharing your lived experience can help normalize and put a face to these conditions.
Know your limits
You are not someone’s therapist. It’s easy (and admirable) to open your heart to someone, but it’s also important to know your boundaries. Especially if you are dealing with a mental illness yourself, it could become overwhelming and possibly triggering to bear that weight. Know your limits, and if someone oversteps, guide them in a different, safer direction.
I want to hear from you!
I’d like to know what you think! Do you find mental health ally’s to be an integral part in bringing awareness to mental illness? What tips to do you have on being a mental health ally? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.