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How to fight stigma about mental health?

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, September 20, 2022
DSS Media Contact: dssmedia@state.sd.us or 605.773.3165


 How to fight stigma about mental health?


PIERRE – Concern about being treated differently leads some people to avoid or delay seeking treatment for their mental health. Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control, contributing to worsening symptoms, lower self-esteem, social isolation, and reduced hope. Stigma not only affects those with mental illness, but the loved ones who support them.


The stigma around mental health is one of the leading barriers to accessing help and support, especially in rural areas. Normalizing the conversation about mental health and seeking help is the first step in creating change. During Suicide Prevention Month we need to raise our voices against stigma. Below are eight actionable ways to take a stand.


  1. Talk openly about mental health.
    Talking openly about mental health has the power to help others. Social media can be a great space for positivity.


  1. Be conscious of language.

Remind people that words matter. Instead of saying “he is schizophrenic,” say “he has a mental illness” or “he has schizophrenia.” Using these terms emphasizes that the person “has” a problem rather than “is” the problem. 


  1. Encourage equality between mental health and physical health.

If we can get others to understand that mental illness is a disease, they may think twice before making comments.


  1. Show compassion for those with mental health challenges.

Be a role model by showing compassion to others.


  1. Choose empowerment over shame.
    Own your life and your story. Do not let others dictate how you view or feel about yourself.


  1. Be honest about treatment.

Normalize mental health treatment, just like other health care treatment.


  1. Don’t hold on to self-stigma.

You can make a difference by simply knowing that mental illness is not anyone’s fault.


  1. Educate yourself and others.

Fear of mental illness is often rooted in a lack of education and understanding.


If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health challenge, please visit dss.sd.gov or call the South Dakota Treatment Resource Hotline at 1-800-920-4343.


If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, 988 is available 24/7 to provide free and confidential care. Just call, text or chat 988.