May: Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness and Need to De-Stigmatize

Be Careful of the Language You Use and the Way You Think About Mental Health

by Aspen Lofgren, Unspoken Voices

During May, many different organizations raise awareness around mental health. These organizations touch on how we can’t just only focus on our physical health and how millions of Americans deal with a mental illness.

In my opinion, stigma is currently the most controversial aspect to mental health. For example, Kanye West has been in the news for tweeting a lot and tweeting very controversial things.  Immediately after his tweeting, so many people were saying he’s “crazy”, “psychotic”, “bipolar”, “not taking his meds anymore”, and so on. These comments are far from appropriate, no matter if Mr. West does deal with mental illness.

The sheer amount of these comments we see is what worries me, though. Do these people really think people with mental illness are crazy? Or were they trying to be edgy? No matter what, I can see that there is a huge problem with the stigma surrounding mental health.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports, “One in 5 Americans is affected by mental health conditions. Stigma is toxic to their mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment”, we must crush the stigma in order to help individuals who are struggling!

Speaking from experience, I did not get diagnosed until after my suicide attempt.  I believe I was afraid that I would be seen as damaged and have all these not so nice terms would apply to me. Before my attempt, I was also dealing with loads of self-hatred due to my sexual assault experience that happened some months prior.  I did not seek help after my assault and 100% believed it was my fault and that I could have done something to stop it.  I bring this up because sexual assault and rape may impact the victim’s mental health. According to Mental Health American, “Many survivors report flashbacks of their assault, and feelings of shame, isolation, shock, confusion, and guilt. People who were victims of rape or sexual assault are at an increased risk for developing: Depression, PTSD, Substance Use Disorders, Eating Disorders, and Anxiety”. Blaming victims for their assault may also intensify any mental health effects of trauma and pushes victims to grieve in silence.

The #MeToo movement has transformed how we talk about sexual assault and rape.  We have witnessed who are victims, they are all around us.  They are our co-workers, siblings, parents, children, and every day regular people!  Please remember, that just because someone doesn’t come out publicly with their story, doesn’t mean they aren’t survivors.  We must be careful to not re-traumatize survivors and question the validity of their stories.  We must understand the tenderness we must all have. We must know when to support our friend and when to back off. And, finally, we must respect those who are dealing mental health effects of trauma.

If you or a loved one is in immediate danger calling 911 and talking with police may be necessary. It is important to notify the operator that it is a psychiatric emergency and ask for an officer trained in crisis intervention or trained to assist people experiencing a psychiatric emergency.

In A Crisis:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255)

If you or someone you know is in crisis—whether they are considering suicide or not—please call the toll-free Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects you with a crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. Your call will be answered by a trained crisis worker who will listen in an empathetic manner and without judgment. The crisis worker will work to ensure that you feel safe and help identify options and information about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free.

Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741

Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.

National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 800-799-SAFE (7233)

Trained expert advocates are available 24/7 to provide confidential support to anyone experiencing domestic violence or seeking resources and information. Help is available in Spanish and other languages.

National Sexual Assault Hotline – Call 800-656-HOPE (4673)

Connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area that offers access to a range of free services. Crisis chat support is available at Online Hotline. Free help, 24/7.

Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) -  - 24/7 Hotline: 800-656-4673

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) -

End Rape on Campus -   - For support: 424-777-3762