Is Enough Being Done To ‘End The Stigma’?
Its May the 8th 2017 and Mental Health Awareness week is in full swing. The term #mentalhealthawarenessweek is trending – from celebrities to sports stars, politicians to authors, just about everybody is talking about this topic. At first I was amazed that so many people are supporting a cause that up until recently – had felt neglected. Whilst there is still a long way to go before mental health is fully addressed – my second thought was what are these people doing to change this?
Is that neighbour who rarely comes outside still going to be seen as a hermit? Is that quiet colleague at work still going to be seen as weird? Is that friend who no longer smiles still going to be seen as boring? Are derogatory terms such as crazy, odd, mad, freak still going to be used when referring to someone who is suffering from a mental health condition?
Sending a tweet to spread the awareness is a great start – but where do you go from there? Unless you consciously make an effort to identify, whether or not the people around you are going through a mental health condition, or physically contribute to the cause – that tweet you sent becomes a fad. It’s a bit like sending a letter with fancy decor and a catchy title but when it’s opened there’s nothing inside.
End the stigma they say! But do you understand what the stigma is? Feeling like an outcast to society? Being treated like a lesser citizen? Being avoided by friends and family? Struggling to socialise at a normal level? Being labelled a weirdo because of it? It’s all good flying the flag but what triumphs have you claimed with it. The last thing I’d want is for #endthestigma to become a fad. Strengthening people’s social and political gain without them actually doing anything to fight the cause.
What happens when its ‘<Insert a cause> awareness week’? Will you be sending communications claiming to support that trend? Or will you actually do something to make a difference? We need to ask ourselves these questions to acknowledge how aware we truly are about mental health.
Once Mental Health Awareness week stops trending – who’s going to continue the conversation? Whilst it’s great that so many people are talking about mental health, I can’t help but feel – the cause will revert back to its previous position.