Stomping Out Stigma

March 12th, 2015
Suedle of Kristen stomping out stigma

Last weekend, I gave a brief talk at ACPA about mental illness and the stigma surrounding it. I called on those present to stand with those of us who struggle from mental illness and stomp out stigma. But what does that mean? How do we do this?

I believe that the most important thing we can do when it comes to destroying stigma is to talk about mental illness, to communicate. Whether that’s talking about your own experiences with mental illness, talking about how mental illness impacts everyone, or just talking about mental illness in general, each of these contributes to us becoming more comfortable with the idea that it is a part of all of our lives. It doesn’t make us any less “normal” if we are impacted by it, and the more we talk about it, the more we’ll be able to recognize that.

One big ol’ caveat here, though – if you’re going to talk about your own struggle with mental illness or that of a loved one’s, you may want to make sure you’re in a safe place to do so – or at least be cognizant of the risks you are taking in doing so. Yes, we’re fighting to get rid of the stigma of mental illness. No, it’s not gone yet. I’ve taken some pretty big risks with sharing my own struggles, but I also know I am surrounded by some pretty awesome people that support me in these risks. That can make a big difference.

And if you’re going to talk about mental illness, it’s also a good idea to educate yourself about it. Read up on what’s out there, whether it’s (shameless plug)¬†Committed, the collection of stories about mental illness by other student affairs practitioners, research that’s available, or other resources on mental illness. You can also follow the #SAcommits hashtag for some great additional readings and resources for mental health, too. If you don’t struggle from mental illness yourself, talk to someone who does to find out more about what it’s like – as long as they’re willing to share.

We have a long road ahead of us, but I want to believe that we are beginning to make strides when it comes to eradicating this stigma. If you agree that we need to move forward, let’s begin walking that talk and stomping out that stigma.