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Mental illness: More talk = Less stigma

Published in Mental Health, For the Health of It Author: Dave Hartford

Mental illnesses are as common as silver cars, as people with brown eyes and more common than being left-handed. Despite being one of the most common illnesses, there still is a stigma attached to mental illnesses and many people struggle with talking about them. Most people will wait an average of ten years before seeking treatment, largely due to the stigma. May is mental health awareness month, which makes it the perfect time to start talking about mental illnesses and what we can do to Make it Ok.

CentraCare Health is part of a local campaign, called Make it OK, to encourage people to talk more openly about mental illnesses and ask for help. Sometimes we resort to silence because it can be hard to find the words to say. Here are tips to help you become more comfortable talking about mental illnesses.

What can you say

Let’s pretend someone you know just told you they’re struggling with an anxiety disorder or depression. What do you say? Here are a few suggestions.

  • “Oh no, what can I do to help?”
  • “I’m here for you if you need me.”
  • “Things will get better.”
  • “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
  • “We’ll make it right. It’ll be OK.”
  • “Can I drive you to an appointment?”
  • “We love you.”

What you shouldn’t say

Sometimes our words may reinforce the stigma. Remember that mental illnesses are biological in nature, just like diabetes, and need treatment. Avoid using derogatory or dismissing language.

  • “It could be worse.”
  • “Snap out of it.”
  • “Everyone feels that way sometimes.”
  • “You may have brought this on yourself.”
  • “There’s got to be something wrong upstairs.”
  • “We’ve all been there.”
  • Don’t use words such as crazy, psycho, nuts or insane.

Visit to learn more, or to start the conversation by taking the pledge to help erase the stigma of mental illnesses.