World Mental Health Day Encourages End To Stigma

If you are someone with a mental health issue or challenge, odds are good that you likely keep the matter fairly quiet. There is still a significant stigma that goes along with having mental health challenges, and until that stigma or prejudice is alleviated, mental health will still be a matter that many people whisper about rather than discuss openly. World Mental Health Day, which is marked on October 10 this year, aims to start removing that stigma and encourage people to get talking.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this year's theme is "Dignity in mental health." People have no issue in

Anne Mai and actress Glenn Close attend a press conference for Fountain House, an organization that helps people with mental health conditions. [Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images]discussing a person's broken foot, or asking how they came to get a particular scratch or cut, yet there is a certain degree of shame that comes with talking about mental health. There shouldn't be. It takes a long time for someone with mental health challenges to even realize that they have a problem; they may believe themselves to be crazy or may even isolate because of their unique mental health condition.

"They are not only discriminated against, stigmatised and marginalised but are also subject to emotional and physical abuse in both mental health facilities and the community," according to the WHO website.

Time to Change, an organization based in England devoted to breaking down the stigma that seems to revolve around discussion

Vince Gill plays at a concert designed to benefit mental health services.
Vince Gill plays at a concert designed to benefit mental health services. [Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images]of mental health conditions, was established in 2009 to help people learn about mental health.

Time to Change director Sue Baker noted that "Mental health problems are an everyday issue for millions of us, yet our closest family, partners, friends and colleagues can still feel uncomfortable and ill-equipped to talk about it. Despite recent progress in starting to break down stigma, our latest survey shows that some people still worry about saying or doing the wrong thing so end up not talking about mental health at all."

According to the organization's website, roughly 25 percent of all English residents will experience a mental health condition at some point this year, and yet, the condition will likely not be discussed, simply because of the stigma that surrounds mental health. Mental Health Today features a blog where a person with mental health conditions discusses the mistakes she made in choosing to go off her medication that was designed to give her some breathing room with her mental health condition. She discussed what that was like, and in particular emphasized the need for the person to consult with medical authorities rather than simply going cold turkey with the medication in an effort to seize greater control of their mental health condition.

"The best thing about the challenge of quitting antidepressants is that you're feeling like you can live without them," Emma Bennett wrote in the guest blog about her own mental health experiences. She added, "The decision to stop taking antidepressants is one that should be well thought about and prepared for thoroughly. Always go to your doctor before going ahead – get as much professional guidance as you can."

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes people can make when it comes to decisions about whether or not to discuss mental health is that they may not feel expert enough to discuss a person's mental health condition. This was revealed in a recent survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Time to Change and reported by Mental Health Today; a third of English residents surveyed believed that they would feel uncomfortable discussing someone's mental health condition, largely because they wanted to avoid the other person feeling embarrassed, that they themselves would not know what to say, or that the other person would not want to talk to them in the first place.

Mental health is a tenuous subject because of the stigma that continues to surround the topic, but it does not have to be. Today, on World Mental Health Day, people are working hard to cut the stigma that surrounds the topic, but mental health needs to be taken as seriously as physical health. Twitter is eager to keep the conversation about mental health going; are you?

[Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Be Vocal]