By Amanda Kearney-Smith
This is the third post on the Canadian anti-stigma movement: U.N.I.T.E¹ which stands for – Understand, Nurture, Include Others, Talk, Embrace.
Last week we discussed “Understand” as one component of battling stigma, the importance of knowledge and raising awareness about mental health. This week we’ll discuss Nurture, the emphasis here is on the importance of taking care of our emotions or inner self. As the site points out in our culture sooo much importance is placed on physical health and beauty but very little on caring for yourself emotionally. That’s not to say physical health isn’t as important, in fact the two are so intertwined we should not discuss one without discussing the other!
Here’s a great article about maintaining emotional and physical health. Click Here
If we can talk about how equally important emotional health is to physical health we can help break down more of the stigma – maybe even use different language. Instead of “mental health” say “emotional wellbeing” or “emotional health” … sometimes the words we use trigger stereotypes.
So why is good emotional health so important?
Even if its obvious to you why its so important, it is not so obvious to everyone! Here are five important reasons to take care of your inner self²:
- Good mental health improves your physical health & wellness (i.e., good sleep, better immunity, reduced pain).
- Improved productivity & financial stability
- Better relationships with family, friends, and colleagues
- Increased safety (the article states that people who are emotionally unwell are more likely to be victims of violence or crimes against them)
- A longer, happier life!
Those are pretty good reasons don’t you think?! So how do we use this list to stop stigma? Helping people see the critical importance of their emotional health and that of their loved ones could help “normalize” or “humanize” the issue. If we talk about the fact that EVERYONE needs to take care of their mental health it goes a long way to help others see it as less of a “us” vs “them” issue. Our culture tends to separate the mind from the body within the healthcare community, if we can shift focus to more of a whole-health orientation it would make getting treatment easier and less stigmatizing.
Other parts of the world are embracing whole health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed their definition of health to: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not just the absence of sickness or frailty.” Not only does it reflect the mind-body connection but it also emphasizes that being healthy isn’t simply “not being sick”.
How can we push the U.S. in this same direction? How can we help providers see the importance? What will it take to shift our culture towards acceptance and away from stigma and discrimination?