Everyone deserves love and support, even those suffering from mental illness. Whether they are your partner, friend, or someone with whom you work, there are ways to support them without judgment. But how can we support someone if we don’t know about the root cause of their problems? That is why mental health literacy is important. It has been defined as “knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders that aid in their recognition, management, and prevention.”
There are three major components of mental health literacy
1. Recognition: The ability to recognize specific disorders or different types of psychological distress
2. Knowledge: Beliefs and knowledge about risk factors, causes, self-help or self-treatment, professional help, and how to seek mental health-related information.
3. Attitude: Facilitate recognition and appropriate help-seeking.
By being aware of mental health problems, it is easy to support someone who is suffering. There are various options to do so.
How do you know someone is having mental health problems?
Determining if someone has mental health issues is the very first step in helping them. There are some warning signs to watch out for:
a) Loss of interest: Losing pleasure in activities they loved and avoiding friends and family.
b) Change in sleeping pattern: Sleeping habits may change, such as sleeping too much or not sleeping enough in comparison to previous patterns.
c) Change in appetite or weight: Changes in eating habits can be seen as eating too much, less, or not eating at all. This can be a sign of depression, but this symptom isn’t enough for any such diagnosis.
d) Changes in mood and behavior: There might be changes in feelings, thinking, and behavior. Extreme mood changes can be seen.
e) Substance abuse: Increased consumption of alcohol or drugs.
f) Social isolation: Having difficulty interacting with others or avoiding going out and isolating oneself can be signs of mental health deterioration.
Ways to Help Someone Who Has a Mental Illness
I. Avoid saying certain phrases to someone with a mental illness:
It’s important to remember that your language matters a lot, and the phrases you use to support someone with mental health issues can have a big impact on their life.
1. “It’s all in your head.”
2. “People have bigger problems.”
3. “Why are you sad?” “You have a great life and everything anyone ever needs.”
4. “You are causing drama just to get attention.”
5. “Stop acting crazy.”
1. “I am here for you if you ever need help.”
2. “Your feelings are valid.”
3. “It must be difficult for you.” “How are you coping with everything?”
4. “I am all ears if you want to talk.”
5. It’s okay to not be okay; I am here for you.
II. Talk about mental health
Educate yourself about the basics of mental health and care. Read about the warning signs and symptoms, then initiate talking about them. It can be challenging, but this will allow the person to feel supported and reach out for help.
You can start by saying:
1. “Do you want to talk about it?” It’s okay even if you don’t want to.
2. “What can I do to help?”
3. “You are not alone; talking to someone who’s dealing with similar issues can help.”
4. “Did you have similar issues in the past?”
5. “I am concerned about you lately. “Do you have self-harming thoughts?”
Things to keep in mind while talking about mental health
a) Be a good listener; don’t force them to talk about their problems. Let them speak up at their own pace. It is important to let them know they have someone to rely on.
b) Do not jump to a conclusion: It is not healthy to make your diagnosis if you are not a mental health professional. Show your support by being there and helping with the resources they need.
c) Encourage them to seek treatment by informing them of available resources and, if desired, mental health counselors. Allow them to choose without forcing everything on them.
d) Make time for them without distractions and create a safe space for them to share whatever they want.
e) Know your boundaries: Don’t let everything consume you to the point where you forget about yourself. It is important to take care of yourself and set some time aside for yourself.
III. Provide emotional support
People with mental illness often become hopeless, and someone who makes them believe in good things encourages hope. Having emotional support can make them feel less lonely and ashamed of their mental health.
Approaches To Improving Mental Health Literacy
1. School-based interventions: Educating children about the basics of mental health and care
2. Individual training programs: Mental health first aid and suicide prevention skills training
3. Websites and books aimed at the public: Quality information in books and websites is beneficial for mental health literacy.
4. Rapport between mental health professionals and clients: Professionals can collaborate to advance competence, informed decision-making, and knowledge that is understandable to all audiences, such as by simplifying complex research findings.
1. The idea of mental health literacy makes the assumption that professional psychiatric knowledge is superior to popular opinion.
2. Low literacy levels are concerning. Mental health literacy is related to general literacy which needs to be improved.
3. The idea might be criticized for discounting the sufferer’s perception of their condition.
Mental health literacy is a concept where you get to know about not just the disorders that a person may face but also the root cause of those disorders and their management. Especially in a country like ours, incomplete information about mental health is disastrous; hence, this post is an attempt to make the readers familiar with the components of mental health literacy and the various measures through which mental illness can be prevented or managed.