By Lyndsey Ellis

When it comes to mental health awareness, there’s ways you can become involved in the movement. But, like with everything, there’s a right and a wrong way to spread the message. Check out these 5 examples that can help you become a better advocate and end discrimination against individuals with mental health challenges.

1. Know the Power of Language

It’s not always what you say; it’s how you say it. This especially applies to the mental health movement where it’s important to be mindful of the way messages are framed. Many words, like ‘crazy’ and ‘looney’ obviously can be triggering, but so can seemingly harmless phrases, such as saying ‘mental illness’ instead of ‘mental health challenge’ or ‘mental health experience.’ Getting familiar with person-first language prevents individuals from reinforcing negative, dehumanizing stereotypes of people with mental or general disabilities.  While we sometimes can’t avoid intentionally hurting others, we can still work towards speaking with more compassion.

2. Share Your Story

Transparency is one of the best ways to spark a discussion on mental health. Sharing your own story as a person that has lived experience with mental health experiences and/or as a supporter of a loved one who’s impacted can help engage people who would otherwise be fearful or uncomfortable with opening up about their own challenges. Speaking up about your personal narrative isn’t always the easiest thing to do, and takes practice, but it’s definitely one of the most effective ways to relate to others.

3. Volunteer

Being involved with outreach activities, administrative support, and other forms of voluntary service also encourages more conversation. Volunteering connects people with valuable resources that could help them on their journey and also enables you grow professional skills that offer long-term benefits.

4. Be Around Like-minded People

As a result of volunteering, you can create and sustain solid relationships with individuals who are working towards the same common goal. Growing your network helps create a safe space to talk openly about everything related to mental health awareness. It keeps you focused, energized, and sociable so you can motivate others to come onboard.

5. Get and Stay Educated

The more you know about current policies on mental health, the better you can voice your concerns and influence decisions. It’s essential to do your own research on laws affecting the mental health movement. Consider going to a few advisory board meetings in your area. Stay current on local and national conferences that you could be part of. Talk to those who’ve been involved in mental health advocacy for a long time and get their perspectives on issues. There’s always new things to learn inside an ever-evolving movement that works to end stigma and identify solutions that empower, as well as serve, the people most impacted.