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May is “National Mental Health Awareness Month” so it’s important you understand what you can do to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues. This stigma can lead to many unnecessary and damaging negative effects.

The Stigma Remains Pervasive

People who do not know anything about mental illness may not be very understanding. They may think the person should just “get over” their illness as quickly as the flu, or that the problem is not as severe as the person makes out. Some may even suggest that a person with a mental illness is just imagining their problems or making them up.

Educate yourself and others about mental illness to dissipate fears and to encourage healthy responses.

The Stigma Isolates

Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding mental illness can also mean fewer opportunities. Companies may pass a person over for a promotion or not hire them at all.

Peers may exclude a person with mental illness from school events, and coworkers may exclude them from social events. At its worst, the stigma can lead to harassment, bullying or physical confrontations.

Discrimination against a person with a mental illness is also illegal. The Americans with Disabilities Act stipulates all workers deserve equal treatment and if you have a mental illness your employer must make “reasonable accommodations” to provide a safe workplace when you have a disability.

You Can Get Help

All too often, a person with a mental illness does not seek help or treatment, because they feel they’ll face judgment. They’re worried others will presume they’re unstable or even dangerous.

If you’re a person experiencing mental health issues, it is important you seek treatment. Don’t let the stigma surrounding mental illness cloud your decisions with shame and self-doubt. You probably wouldn’t ignore treatment if you had a fractured bone or some other physical ailment, so reach out to someone you trust to get the treatment you need. A proper diagnosis is the first step towards recovery.

Mind/Body Connection

Countless studies show that caring for your physical health improves overall wellness, including your mental health. When you eat properly, manage stress, exercise, and get enough sleep it benefits your mind and body.

Almost your entire immune system resides in the gut so it is important you eat a nutrient-rich diet and eliminate unhealthy fats, sugar, salt, and additives. A whole food diet based on fresh vegetables, protein, and healthy fats can fuel the mind and body.

Exercise improves mood, helps you control your weight, and is the best way to avoid physical health issues. It can also help you alleviate stress, which can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, and many other conditions. You don’t need to become a marathon runner overnight. Every little bit counts, so find an activity you enjoy and build on that.

Don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep, either. Your mind and body need sleep to rebuild so you can be the best you can be when you start each day.

If you want to know more about mental illness, take the #4Mind4Body Challenge through Mental Health America. Each simple daily challenge helps you understand an aspect of mental illness or beneficial information to manage it. Once you educate yourself, you’re better equipped to help yourself, a friend, coworker, or family member. Let’s eliminate this stigma once and for all.

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