May 14, 2024 Mental Health Expert shares 5 practical ways to Reduce Mental Illness Stigma

Frank Ghinassi May 14, 2024 – It is estimated that more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness such as anxiety, PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and more. While mental illnesses are common, they’re often stigmatized because of a lack of understanding about what mental health conditions are and what it’s like to live with them. Stigma can also arise from personal thoughts or religious beliefs about people who have mental health conditions.

Everyone has a role to play in creating a mentally healthy community – one that is inclusive, rejects discrimination and supports recovery. Frank A. Ghinassi, senior vice president of Behavioral Health Services at RWJBarnabas Health and president and chief executive of Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, shares ways that everyone can break down the stigma around mental health.

  • Educate yourself and others about mental health. Learning what mental health conditions look like including warning signs and symptoms can help reduce some of the fear, misunderstanding, and judgment around them. Sharing this information from reliable sources with family, friends, colleagues or classmates can help reduce the stigma that people with mental health conditions face.
  • Be aware of your words. When we use words with negative associations, like “crazy,” we contribute to the judgment and stigmatization of others. Use respectful language when talking about mental health. For example, instead of “the mentally ill” use “people with a mental illness.”
  • Talk openly about mental health. Personal stories and testimonials can be powerful tools in fostering empathy. Share your own experience of mental illness. This can help people feel safe discussing their experiences without fear of judgement. Talking openly about mental health also includes speaking up against stigma. Say something when you hear people around you making stereotypical or inaccurate comments about mental illness.
  • Remember that people are more than their diagnoses. The purpose of a mental health diagnosis is to provide a framework for understanding a person’s symptoms and to guide the selection of appropriate treatments.Humans are complex and a person’s illness is just one small part of who they are. Treat everyone with dignity and respect no matter what.
  • Seek treatment and encourage others to do the same. Just like if you broke your leg or got sick, you’d schedule an appointment with your doctor to get better. Don’t let the fear of being labeled with mental illness stop you or your loved ones from getting help. Treatment is vital to bringing relief and reducing symptoms that interfere with your life. Access mental health services here.

By working together to promote understanding and acceptance, we can create a more inclusive and supportive society for everyone impacted by mental health challenges. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To connect with a top behavioral health specialist at RWJBarnabas, visit: