5 Ways to Overcome the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

One in five adults in the United States suffer from at least one diagnosed mental health issue every year (Source: National Institute for Mental Health). That’s about 52 million individuals. To put that into perspective, imagine you and your four closest family members or friends are all sitting together around a table. Statistically, one of you will be struggling with at least one mental health issue, whether that be depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD or any number of diagnosable mental health issues. But how many times a year do you have a conversation about mental health with those four people? Your answer is probably zero. Why is that?

There are three categories of mental health stigma. Each one contributes to the barrier between you and your discussion about mental health. So, let’s talk about how to reduce that barrier and overcome each stigma in order to better talk about mental health with not only your loved ones, but also yourself.

Public Stigma

Public stigma surrounding mental health is the negative attitudes or perceptions that the general public has about mental health. The common public belief about mental health is that “people with mental issues are dangerous, incompetent, to blame for their disorder [and] unpredictable” (Source: American Psychiatric Association). 

What can affect public stigma? Movies and television shows like Criminal Minds, Mindhunter, the 2019 film version of the Joker, etc., are all forms of media that represent individuals with mental illness who turn violent. These individuals and their mental health are portrayed in a way that fuels the prejudice and stereotypes the public already believes about mental health – they are dangerous, incompetent and unpredictable.

Personal Stigma

Personal stigma is the negative attitudes or perceptions that an individual has about their own mental health. Individuals with their own prejudices about mental health that are fueled by public stigma believe they are “dangerous, incompetent, [and] to blame [for their condition]” (APA).

What can affect personal stigma? The public perception of mental health is the baseline for how people think about their own mental health. If they are commonly in contact with these negative perceptions and harmful stereotypes about mental health, it is more likely that they are going to turn that stigma towards themselves. In addition, how those in their direct circle talk about mental health can contribute to their beliefs about mental health.

Institutional Stigma

Institutional stigma is how the general public’s belief about mental health affects the system. The government and private organizations may intentionally or unintentionally alter laws and opportunities that directly or indirectly affect those with mental illness based on the prejudices and stereotypes of individuals with mental health (APA).

Again, institutional stigma stems from the public’s beliefs about mental health and how those with mental health are perceived to be dangerous, incompetent, and unpredictable. There are several areas where mental health stigma is purposefully embodied in laws and other institutions – the “insanity defense” in the legal system, mental health coverage not being included in most health care insurance plans, no formal mental health education in schools.

So how can you and your four closest family members or friends reduce the stigma surrounding mental health? Here are five ways to do so:

  1. Acknowledge the harmful effects of stigma

    Common effects fueled by stigma include low self-esteem, difficulty with social relationships, difficulty at work and school and decreased likelihood to seek help at a crucial time. By recognizing the harmful effects that negative stereotypes and prejudices towards mental health affect the public’s perception of mental health, you can easily identify ways to flip the script and change your attitudes and actions towards mental health.

  2. Educate yourself on the topic of mental health

    Learn what mental health disorders look like in real life. What are common symptoms of depression? Anxiety? OCD? What do you look for in yourself? What do you look for in others? Knowing what these disorders look like outside of media portrayals is crucial to understanding the symptoms and what to look for, which makes it easier to know when it is time to get help. Utilize resources like the APA website and local community mental health centers to get an idea.

  3. Educate others on the topic of mental health

    Once you have a decent understanding of mental health yourself, use the opportunity to talk about it openly with others. If you notice a close friend is showing signs of a depressive episode, talk to them about what you have observed and let them know why it is important that they seek help. If you hear classmates or co-workers talking about mental health in a demeaning, stigmatized way, speak up and let them know what the reality is. Don’t be afraid to correct others and push the idea that mental health does not equal dangerousness and incompetence.

  4. Be mindful of your language

    Don’t throw around vocabulary associated with mental health haphazardly. Meaning, don’t use the word “depressed” when you are just having a bad day. Don’t use the word “anxiety” when you are nervous about a test or a presentation. Don’t use “OCD” when you like to keep your room tidy. Throwing around words and phrases meant to define mental health only contribute to the stereotypes and prejudices towards mental health and makes it difficult for people struggling with these disorders to feel comfortable speaking up and seeking help.

  5. Openly discuss your experience with mental health

    Given that one in five individuals struggle with some sort of mental illness, make it a habit to openly talk about your own experience with mental health, if that is something you are comfortable with. Talking about mental health creates a domino effect – once one person speaks out and acknowledges their mental health, another person follows, and then another, and then another. Knowing that someone else is struggling with something similar makes it easier for others to recognize that they may also be struggling. People find comfort in knowing that they are not alone.

So, the next time you are sitting around a table with your family or friends, think about the fact that at that very moment, one of you may very well be struggling with mental health, and don’t be afraid to start up a conversation.

This blog was written by Kayla Pray, Residential Clinician at Community Reach Center.

What Kids Need to Know About Bullying From a Leading Mental Health Clinic

Kid with braces smiling

There was a time when being bullied was considered a rite of passage some children simply had to endure. The prevailing thinking was that they would “get over it” and it might even “toughen them up.” Fortunately, parents, schools and the U.S. government now have a more proactive view of addressing this behavior, which can be very painful for the victims and leave lasting emotional scars. That awareness is reflected in a number of weeks - or month-long, anti-bullying observations, typically occurring in the fall as children return to school. At our mental health clinic, we encourage parents to learn more about what can be done to prevent bullying.

Tips for Standing Up to a Bully

While teachers, parents and adults, in general, have an obligation to take action when they become aware of bullying, it is also helpful for children to know how to handle a bully on their own. Below are some strategies children can use to stop a bully.

  • Find supportive peers. If a school has a bully, it is likely that there are multiple victims. By supporting, and getting support from, those students and others, a child can give a bully second thoughts about continuing threatening behavior.
  • Talk to adults. Bullying behavior that seems obvious to victims may not be immediately detected by parents and teachers. Children should know that telling adults about bullying isn’t “tattling” but is instead speaking up about a dangerous behavior and that doing so may help keep other children from being bullied.
  • Take action right away. The longer a child submits to bullying, the more empowered the bully will feel and the more aggressive their actions are likely to be. If a child takes a stand immediately, a bully will be more inclined to discontinue the behavior.
  • Be assertive. Often children who are being bullied either put up with the abuse or go the other way and lash out at the bully. Both of those approaches tend to elicit an elevated level of abusive behavior. Assertiveness sits between those two extremes and is the best way for a child to show a bully they won’t be intimidated.
  • Use logic rather than emotion. Bullies tend to feed off the emotions of their victims, whether that is fear or anger. Children who learn to control their emotions and respond to a bully with confidence are less likely to be targeted.
  • Portray confidence through body language. Bullies look for physical signs that their abuse is having an impact on a victim. Children should learn that looking the bully in the eye, speaking slowly and in a calm voice and using the bully’s name are some of the best ways to show that they won’t put up with this behavior.

Bullying and Anxiety

One of the most serious consequences of bullying is that it can create or exacerbate an anxiety disorder in a child. Parents, teachers, coaches and other adults should pay attention to signs that a child — especially one who they suspect might be the victim of a bully — is suffering from anxiety. If a child starts withdrawing from friendships, avoiding activities they previously enjoyed and in general isolating himself or herself from others, it may mean that treatment for anxiety is needed.

Helping Families

Learn more about our services at communityreachcenter.org or by calling us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Denver Area Mental Health Center Shares Tips for Explaining Depression to Children

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 16.2 million adults in the U.S. have at least one episode of what is known as major depression each year. That number equates to 6.7 percent of all U.S. adults. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the U.S.

Not only does the condition affect the adults who have it, depression can also have a significant impact on the children in their life. Historically, depression was a condition that adults struggled to acknowledge and talk about even among themselves, and it was generally kept hidden as much as possible from children. What we now understand is that children sense that there is a problem even if it is not revealed to them. We also know that sharing age-appropriate information on a loved one’s depression can help children better cope with the challenges that the illness presents.

Planning is Important When Talking With Kids About Depression

Children can benefit from being educated about what depression is and how its symptoms affect their loved ones. However, it is important for parents or other caregivers to prepare for that conversation. This includes:

  • Talking with other adults first. If you plan to have a conversation with your child about depression, you should first talk with friends, loved ones or a counselor about what should be shared and how it might be received.
  • Considering who should talk with the child. It is best if information about a loved one’s mental illness comes from someone the child trusts and respects.
  • Thinking about the right place. Where will the child feel comfortable and undistracted having this talk?
  • Choosing the right time. The conversation should take place at a time after which a loved one will be available to answer follow-up questions and provide support.

Strategies for Helping a Child Understand Depression

When you talk with a child about depression, here are some things you can to do ensure that it is a positive and productive conversation:

  • Help them understand that depression is an illness that can be treated. However, explain that the treatment will take time.
  • Emphasize that depression is not something the child or the loved one with the condition should feel guilty or embarrassed about. Many families have been touched in some way by depression, so other people can surely relate.
  • Let them know that depression can cause a person to say or do things they wouldn’t say or do when they are well.
  • Be sure they understand that their loved one’s depression is in no way caused by the child.
  • Encourage them to ask any questions they have about depression and to be open about how the loved one’s condition is making them feel.
  • Reassure them that there are many adults in their life—family members, relatives, counselors at school, etc.—who will support them as their loved one works through the process of getting well.

The First Conversation Should Not be the Last

It often takes time for a child to process what they learn about depression. It is important that you check in with them periodically to see if they have questions or concerns as the implications of their loved one’s diagnosis become clearer to them. It is also important that while you explain the serious nature of depression, you also encourage an upbeat outlook on treatment and focus on the person’s future health and happiness.

How a Mental Health Center Can Help

October is a month in which there are a number of observances to draw attention to the challenges of mental illness, including Mental Illness Awareness Week, National Depression Screening Day and World Mental Health Day. This makes it a great time to talk with a child about depression, as you can point to all the work being done to help adults and kids achieve better mental health.

At Community Reach Center, our trained counselors can help parents and other caregivers understand the best way to have a conversation with a child about depression. We can also participate in that conversation or provide follow-up support. Visit communityreachcenter.org or by call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for more information. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

 

The Focus is on Balance During National Work and Family Month in October

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution in 2003 declaring October to be National Work and Family Month. That designation was later reaffirmed by both houses of Congress. The purpose of the resolution is to communicate the importance of flexible work policies that are healthier for workers and their families and to celebrate progress in that direction. As a leading provider of mental health services in the Denver area, Community Reach Center knows how important work-life balance can be and what a positive impact the right balance can have on a person’s well-being.

The Many Benefits of Work-Life Balance

When the idea of work-life balance first gained momentum in the U.S. in the 1980s, many employers thought of it simply as people wanting more time away from the office and felt that it was a concept that would only benefit employees and their families. Since that time, however, it has become clear that greater workplace flexibility is good for workers and their employers. Some of the many benefits include:

  • Improved health and well-being. People who enjoy a good work-life balance have more time and energy for addressing and maintaining good physical, mental and emotional health.
  • Better personal relationships. Having the freedom to organize their work-day in a way that allows them to attend important events they might otherwise have missed improves connectivity with loved ones.
  • Increased work productivity. People who are overworked and experiencing burnout are far less productive than those who are rested, refreshed and ready to tackle their objectives.
  • Lower stress level, absenteeism and medical costs. Employees who frequently or continually work long hours with minimal opportunity to “disconnect” have higher stress levels, which leads to missing work more frequently and higher medical costs for stress-related ailments.
  • Improved brand perception. Employers with policies that respect work-life balance are looked upon more favorably by prospective customers and potential employees.

Ways to Create Better Work-Life Balance

Whether you are an employer considering changes to your work policies or an employee advocating for better work-life balance, here are some ways that better balance can be achieved:

  • Flexible work hours. For some employees, a mid-morning start time would be much better than 8 or 9 a.m. due to family commitments. For others, working from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. is ideal. A little flexibility can go a long way toward helping people achieve the right work-home rhythm.
  • Working from home. Whether a company allows people to work from home every day, occasionally on an as-needed basis or somewhere in between, having a telework policy can be good for employers and their staff members.
  • More time off. Many companies find that when they give employees more time off, there is not the expected drop off in productivity. Instead, the combination of greater focus before scheduled time away and a higher energy level upon return compensates for the decrease in hours worked.
  • Defined boundaries. Laptops and smartphones are wonderful things. However, having them can mean that an employee is never truly “away” from the office. Setting clear policies on how and when employees can be contacted outside the standard work-day can help people get more rest and relaxation when they are off the clock.
  • Family-friendly work events. There are many ways to combine work time and family time such as allowing employees to bring their families on required working retreats.

Mental Health Services: Getting Help When Life is out of Balance

During National Work and Family Month, or any time that life gets stressful, Community Reach Center, your mental health services provider, can help manage mental health challenges. Learn more about our services at communityreachcenter.org or by calling us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It is an observation that draws attention to what a pervasive problem suicide is. It also highlights the fact that there are behavioral health resources available from places like Community Reach Center’s crisis center in Denver for people who are considering ending their life and for family members and friends of people who are at risk of attempting suicide or who have completed suicide.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Nearly 45,000 Americans die by suicide each year
  • For every person that dies by suicide, there are another 25 who attempt suicide
  • Suicide costs the U.S. $69 billion annually

However, there are things that loved ones can do to help prevent suicide. First and foremost, it is important to recognize the indicators that some is at risk.

Signs a Person May be Considering Suicide

While not everyone who attempts or completes suicide exhibits observable behaviors before they take action, many people do. These behaviors may include:

  • Talking frequently or passionately about death, dying, self-harm or suicide
  • Attempting to obtain the means of suicide such as firearms or other weapons, drugs, chemicals, rope, etc.
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Withdrawal from family and friends, and avoiding activities previously enjoyed
  • Expressing feelings of self-hatred or guilt
  • Reckless actions, such as abusing drugs or alcohol, driving carelessly, etc.
  • Getting affairs in order such as selling or giving away possessions
  • Saying goodbye to loved ones as if they won’t be seen again
  • Demonstrating sudden calmness as they come to terms with the action they are about to take 

It is important to treat any of these behaviors as issues that should be addressed and not a “phase” that the person is going through.

The Right Response is to Take Action

If you have any suspicion that someone is considering suicide, the right response is to take action. If it turns out you have misunderstood their behavior, you can apologize and move on. However, if you are correct, your intervention may save their life.

It is a common belief that talking with someone who is considering suicide may cause them to move forward with their attempt. However, providing an opportunity to talk about what has them on the brink of ending their life can help relieve some of the pressure they are feeling and give them a chance to consider alternative actions including getting help from a crisis center in Denver like Community Reach Center.

When talking with someone you think is at risk of attempting suicide, keep these tips in mind:

  • Be honest. Don’t try to hide the fact that you are worried about them attempting suicide. It is important that you be truthful about your fears for them.
  • Take them seriously. If a person says that they “just can’t go on,” you should take them at their word and not be dismissive about their situation.
  • Be understanding even if you can’t relate. It may be that suicide is something that would never cross your mind. However, what matters is that it appears to be on theirs.
  • Be a good listener. Generally what people in crisis need is not advice but an opportunity to express themselves. 
  • Provide hope. The mental health conditions that lead people to consider suicide are treatable and a better life is possible.
  • Promise support. In many cases, simply knowing that they have someone who will stand by them as they seek treatment can make all the difference.

If at any point before, during or after a conversation you feel a suicide attempt is imminent, seek help immediately. Transport the person to a hospital or mental health center if they will allow it and you are able to do so. If not, call 911, prevent access to any means of suicide, and stay with the person until help arrives.

How to Talk with Suicide Loss Survivors

Like a person who is at risk of attempting suicide, suicide loss survivors also need the support of loved ones. Here some recommendations on how to talk with them:

  • Avoid saying “I know what you’re going through.” Even if you are a suicide loss survivor yourself, you can’t fully understand their situation.
  • Don’t imply or assign blame to them or to anyone.
  • Know that just being there for them can be helpful, even if a few words are spoken.
  • Don’t ask questions about how the person died.
  • Offer whatever assistance you are able to provide.
  • Don’t make statements that minimize the pain of the situation like, “He’s in a better place.”
  • Don’t place value judgments on the act, such as saying it is selfish, a sign of weakness, etc.
  • Be patient with them.
  • Check in often.

Assistance is Available

Talking with a behavioral health counselor can help a person keep from getting to the point where he or she is considering suicide. Learn about our crisis center in Denver at communityreachcenter.org or contact us by phone at 303-853-3500 to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

 

Denver Mental Health Services Provider’s Strategies for Improving Self-Confidence

Woman Smiling

Self-confidence or self-esteem can be defined as trust in your own abilities, judgment and personal qualities. As we tell people who use our Denver mental health services, while self-confidence feels good in general, there are many other benefits from having appropriate self-esteem, including:

  • Fewer feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness
  • Stronger relationships built on a foundation of equality
  • Greater ability to deal with adversity
  • Lower stress level
  • Increased assertiveness in getting what you want and need in life

While it takes time and commitment for a person who is lacking in self-confidence to develop more of it, the end result is worth the effort.

11 Tactics for Taking on Your Insecurities

The key to improving your self-confidence is taking action. That action may be physical or mental, but the goal is to continually move in a more positive direction. Below are some tactics you can use to elevate your self-esteem.

  1. Think positively about yourself. One aspect of having a more favorable opinion of yourself is to listen for negative self-talk and when you hear it, immediately counteract it with positive mental statements about the fact that you are a unique person with many positive qualities who deserves to be happy and respected.
  2. Practice good personal hygiene. While putting effort into looking “presentable” can create a positive impression of you in others, the real reason to do it is that it creates a positive impression of you in you.
  3. Exercise regularly. Whether it is a brisk walk or a vigorous workout, elevating your heart rate releases “feel good” hormones that can have a positive impact on your mood and outlook. 
  4. Eat a healthy diet. Fueling your body properly helps give you the physical energy you need to be confident.
  5. Get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on your health in general and your emotional health in particular.
  6. Improve your posture. Poor posture can be an external sign of internal feelings of fear and submissiveness. Standing or sitting up straight with your chin up and shoulders back communicates a more upbeat message to yourself and others.
  7. Use stress reduction practices. It is more difficult to be self-assured when you are experiencing stress. Use techniques such as meditation, yoga or prayer to manage and reduce your stress.
  8. Pursue hobbies you enjoy. Taking time out from your daily obligations to indulge an interest makes a statement to yourself that you deserve enjoyment.
  9. Prepare for life’s challenges. One of the biggest threats to your self-confidence can be the fear that you are not up to a particular task. The best way to eliminate that fear is to do all you can to prepare yourself for it. Researching the topic, role-playing the conversation or doing other prep work can make a big difference in your belief that you can handle the situation.
  10. Practice gratitude. The more you recognize the good things in your life, the more you start to see that you are deserving of them.
  11. Be kind. Observing yourself being thoughtful on a regular basis confirms that you are a good person with much to offer your friends, family and community.

Perhaps most importantly, have realistic expectations for change. If you have suffered from a lack of self-confidence for years (or decades), reshaping your self-image will take time. Be patient with yourself and know that there will be setbacks along the way. However, if you are persistent in your efforts, there is no question that you can be a more confident person in the future than you are today.

Helping You See Yourself in a More Positive Light

Developing the ability to consistently face the world with confidence can be life-changing. If you need help with increasing your self-esteem, we’re a leading Denver mental health services provider, and we’re here to help. Visit communityreachcenter.org or contact us by phone at 303-853-3500 to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.