Mental Health Awareness: Breaking the Stigma and Seeking Help

By Medical Expert Team

Mar 01 , 2024 | 6 min read


Health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not just the absence of disease. Today, with easier access to knowledge on the internet, an increasing number of people are aware and sensitised to the importance of prioritising mental health alongside physical health. Unfortunately, mental health and mental illness are still highly stigmatised. 

Stigma is when people view any person with a distinguishing characteristic in a negative light. This characteristic could be anything from a physical quality to a mental illness. It can often lead to discrimination in social or even professional settings, shame, fear, doubt, and misunderstanding. This article will talk about how an individual can cope with the stigma against mental health to see things in a new light and know when to seek help.

Steps To Cope With The Stigma

Treat Physical and Mental Health Equally

Health is a state of holistic wellness and staying mentally fit is equally, if not more, important than staying physically fit. While the mind and the body are viewed as separate entities, they have a significant impact on each other.  Studies suggest almost 20% of the Indian population is afflicted with mental health struggles. Poor mental health is also associated with increased morbidity and premature mortality. This could be attributed to engagement in unhealthy lifestyles like lack of physical activity, substance abuse, poor nutrition, and sleep which can impair an individual’s ability to function on a daily basis and be productive. Ignoring one’s mental health can thus be detrimental to the health of not just the individual, but also the society as a whole.

Talk Openly About Mental Health

Normalising conversation on mental health can have a great impact on empowering individuals to speak up and seek help at the right time. Talking to others - friends or family can help build a powerful support system to deal with mental illness and distressing situations, as it can take away the brunt of dealing with it alone. It may be difficult to initiate the first conversation in light of pre-existing taboos and stigma. However, it is important to understand that a change in perspective toward mental health will have to start small. As a caretaker of someone who is struggling, sometimes simply lending an ear can have a huge impact on offloading a person’s burdens. 

Educate Yourself And Others

Education about mental health can help dissolve myths and taboos. This could be done through educational campaigns, becoming more cognizant of mental health statistics, and using online resources to pass on facts and positive beliefs. There are several reasons why people develop mental illnesses. These could be genetic or biological causes, environmental triggers, and trauma in childhood or even the work setting. It is important for any individual to make themselves more aware of what is happening and why. This should not be limited to what is considered serious mental illnesses but also to other common problems like substance abuse which are often looked down upon simply as a blotch on the fabric of society.

Be Conscious of Language

Choosing when to speak and what to speak is a skill that has a huge impact on someone who is struggling with poor mental health. The brain has a tendency to link certain words with certain emotions. Loosely using words that were normalised in the past to describe someone with a mental illness, like - 'crazy' or 'psycho,' can be repressive and can produce fear against speaking up. At the same time, simple positive affirmations like - ‘You are not alone’ or ‘We are there for you’ can make a person feel seen and heard. Respecting others and realising that they are an individual with the right to feel however they want toward a certain situation is equally important.

Don'T Let Stigma Create Self-Doubt And Shame

‘Self-stigma’ is when an individual starts believing all the negative notions that surround mental illness and ends up becoming self-critical or blaming themselves for their condition. This could create self-doubt and shame and further pull down their self-confidence. It is to be realised that everyone’s experiences and how they chose to deal with them are different. A common belief may be that people with mental illness are weak when in reality, this is not at all true. In fact, people with mental illness are not any different from someone who has a physical ailment like a heart condition or a fracture - it needs medical treatment, not shaming.

Don't Isolate Yourself

While it may seem easier to lock oneself up and suppress how one is feeling, it is not the ideal approach to dealing with disturbed mental health. Humans are social animals and people need people not just to feel a sense of community but also to survive. An essential step towards healing is reaching out to others for help. One may feel that they are strong enough to deal with anything alone or that they deserve to do so, but they don’t have to. Talking to friends, family, or healthcare professionals can help one get the support and compassion that can often be a saviour.

Don't Equate Yourself With Your Illness

Just like someone with poor immunity is not known as a ‘weak’ person, someone with mental illness is not an ‘ill’ person. The disease and the individual are two very separate entities. Anyone can get the disease. Mental illness is just a part of someone, a part that can be managed, changed, or dealt with. What it means to be human is much more than a mere diagnosis. It is a person’s likes and dislikes, dreams and aspirations, experiences, expectations, the way they talk or walk, and a lot more! The best way forward is to get rid of unnecessary labels and to start seeing oneself not defined by some word but as a human being.

Join A Support Group

A support group is a group of people who are struggling with similar, if not the same, issues or illnesses and share their experiences and lessons with each other for communal benefit. These are confidential groups that can aid in recovery. There are several online and offline support groups available to deal with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. These could benefit not just a patient but also their caretakers in coping with the disease as well as the stigma and provide a sense of belongingness.

Get Help At School

The Indian Government has introduced several programs to deal with the increasing burden of mental illness among students. NCERT has also introduced a module stressing the importance of ‘emotional wellbeing and mental health.’ Several ‘Life Skills' programs are also being introduced in educational institutions all across the nation. Nowadays, mental health counselors and trained psychologists are available in schools and colleges who can guide someone who is struggling. 


Alas, with the raging epidemic of mental health that is rampantly spreading across the globe, it is an urgent necessity to speak out against the false notions and stigma that surround mental health. It is necessary to break the chain of passing false beliefs without evidence against them. One person’s story can encourage several others to speak up and seek timely help. So start today and remember - “Our voice is a precious gift and we must use it.”


What Does Breaking The Stigma Mean?

Breaking the stigma means understanding and accepting the differences in an individual and seeing them not as a fault but as a distinguishing characteristic. It means letting go of hatred or negative feelings toward others and understanding that every individual is different and needs love and support regardless. 

How Do You Break The Stigma On Mental Health?

By speaking up against it, educating oneself and others, identifying self-stigma and getting rid of it, and by seeking help whenever needed.

How Does Mental Illness Stigma Keep People From Seeking Help?

Mental illness stigma leads to shame, self-doubt, and self-confidence, which prevents people from speaking up due to fear of what others might think.

How Do You Break The Stigma of Seeking Therapy?

Therapy is but a professional intervention to help one understand better their mental health and mental illness. By educating people about how it works and realising its major impact in dealing with mental health issues, the stigma against therapy could be broken. 

Is Mental Health Stigma a Barrier To Seeking Help?

Yes. Mental health stigma is a major barrier to speaking out and getting help. 

Written and Verified by:

Medical Expert Team