One Simple Skill You Can Perfect To Reduce The Stigma of Mental Illness

The News programs may have you convinced otherwise, but did you know that more people die from suicide every year than homicide?

  • The Bureau of Justice Statistics Reports that in 2014, there were 14k homicides in the United States. This same year, the Center for Disease Control reported 42k suicides. Since 1992, homicides have dropped by nearly 15k per year, roughly 40%, whereas suicide rates continue to climb.
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in people under 24. And 90% of people who die from suicide have an underlying mental health issue.
  • Lastly, roughly 60% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition did not receive treatment in the past year.

Clearly, we are missing the boat when it comes to identifying, treating and supporting those with mental illness or mental health concerns.

We have a big problem, but maybe the solution is a little easier than we thought, maybe it’s something everyone reading this can do today, right now.

2. When was the last time you had a bad day at work? Or didn’t wanted to get out of bed in the morning? In these moments, where do you go? Who do you turn to? What do you do?

To cope with short term and long term mental health problems, many of us pick up bad habits, like substance abuse, self-harm, or neglecting important life tasks.

While professional help may be the best course of action, it’s clear most people do not seek it out. Therefore, we must think outside the box to support the millions of people who are suffering every day.

One thing we know for sure, is that supportive, stigma-free environments are central to supporting those in need. A simple way to create these is by signaling care and kindness to those you are closest too. You can do this is through listening. Yes, stop talking so much…. And just listen. At it’s core, listening is an act of care, it shows acceptance and empathy.

And when people feel cared for, accepted, loved, and appreciated, they find ways to help themselves. They talk more openly about their struggles.

When stigma goes down, healing and love goes up. Deliberately listening to others is one of the easiest ways you can play a part in reducing stigma and creating healthy and safe environments for people to talk about their mental health.

3. Listening is a skill you should not take for granted. It is a skill you can perfect, practice and deliberately use to make the world a better place. Here are 3 skills to work on -

  • Reflect — repeat back what the individual has said, use kind and empathetic words
  • Avoid making assumptions, really try to put yourself in this person’s shoes and remove your own personal bias
  • Direct the conversation through open-ended questions. You do not want to put words or ideas in their mouth, so never ask a question that can be answered with a yes or a no.

Take the time be there for the people you are closest to, spread listening and empathy around like candy. If each one of us takes more ownership of this problem, we can start to make a dent in this massive problem. So next time, your intuition signals that you should go talk to that co-worker who looks like they are having a bad day, or give that friend a call you haven’t spoken to in a few weeks… don’t hesitate, the world needs you to proactively engage in listening.