Why Therapy Is Not For Me (but actually might be)

1. I want to get through it on my own.

We live in a society that places a lot of value on independence, but in truth, we are interdependent. Each of us does need other people to some degree. Participating in therapy is not a passive process. You are not “attending therapy”, or “getting therapy”.  Therapists are not administering something to you. Therapy is an active, collaborative process of figuring out life. Therapists do have some specialized knowledge about mental health, but we act as guides, not fixers. In fact, but of the unique aspects of therapy is that therapists act as guides, not as fixers.

2. If my friends and family can’t help me, how will someone I don’t even know help me?

Friends and family play extremely vital roles in our lives, and there is no substitute for those types of relationships. Often the people in our life have a vested interest in what we choose to do or in what direction we move. The role of a therapist is very different. When you go to therapy, the first task is for the therapist to be able to understand your hopes and goals, because your agenda is our agenda. Sometimes family and friends have the tendency to try to make things better for you. Therapists are trained to help you find the tools to make things better for yourself.

3. It’s not that bad. I’m not crazy. Therapy is a last resort for me.

People participate in therapy for a wide variety of reasons.

Sometimes things in their lives are pretty bad when they initiate therapy.

Sometimes they start treatment because they aren’t feeling fulfilled, or because something in life feels “off”. They want to not simply get through each day, but instead want to thrive. Sometimes students come to therapy because they are aware that academic stress is unavoidable and they want to learn strategies to manage it before it starts to create problems. At UNC Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), we work with people throughout the whole spectrum, between preventing problems before they start and treating issues before they begin.

Mental Health is similar to physical health in that it is often a quicker, easier process if you take a proactive approach. I often hear from students who have recurrent depression that the first episode was the worst, in part because they didn’t know to take action until things felt completely unmanageable.

Stigma is real. Often times we are socialized to have some negative feelings towards individuals with mental health disorders and towards seeking mental health treatment. Where have you heard some of those messages? What do you believe? How might you overcome the stigma associated with seeking services?

4. Therapy is too _____________________ (Expensive, Time Consuming)

There is no arguing with that. Participating in therapy definitely takes time (typically 45-60 minutes weekly). It also may require a financial investment. Although CAPS brief therapy services are free, there are times when students may start off with or transition to a community provider, where there will likely be a copay.

Often when I meet with students, their symptoms are impacting their ability to be as successful as they could be academically. Their friendships or relationships with loved ones may be impacted. Anxiety, for example, could make it extremely difficult for a person to concentrate and learn new material, and to seek frequent reassurance from friends, or to avoid social situations altogether.  Also, some of the symptoms they are experiencing are painful. They are in real distress. Can you relate to this? How are the issues you are having impacting your quality of life?

If one part of the equation is the cost/time/effort, please remember to include the other side of the equation- the impact the symptoms are having on your well-being.

In Conclusion

Therapy is not for everyone. But therapy is helpful for some people, and it just may be that it could be helpful to you. But don’t take my word for it! See if therapy can help you. The best way to get something out of therapy:

  • Come in with some goals in mind.
  • Ask your therapist questions.
  • If you don’t feel as if the first person you see is a good fit, work with someone else.
  • Monitor your symptoms and your progress toward your goals, and work with your therapist to get the most out of your time together.
  • Be open with your therapist about any concerns you have about the therapy process.

If you would like to initiate therapy or simply talk with a clinician more about your options for mental health services, please walk in to CAPS between the hours of 9*-12 and 1-4 M-F (8-5 if you have urgent concerns). *Friday morning initial appointments begin at 9:30 a.m. 

 

Originally posted August 6, 2013. Revised and updated 2016. 

Take a Break! Hey, Take 10

This blog post was originally published on July 7, 2015.

Tar Heels, if you’re still hanging around the general vicinity of North Carolina this summer, you don’t need me to tell you it’s hot, but…OMG it’s sooooo hot! If you’re anything like me, a long string of hot days might make you complain a lot and think less clearly than you might otherwise.

Also, while the pictures on my Facebook feed tell me that this is vacation time for a lot of people…it might not feel like vacation time for all of us. Yes, NECESSITY, as well as our culture that socializes us to ideals of BUSY! and ACHIEVEMENTS!, can chase us down even into these summer months.

So, please allow me to be your Captain Obvious right now and give you a loving reminder:

Here is a comfy pink chair in the forest a person might sit in if they were taking a break.
Here is a comfy pink chair in the forest a person might sit in if they were taking a break.

Take a break.

Take a break! There are many ways to take a break today, this week, this month, this summer, even if you’re jamming out in Summer Session II and can’t afford a beach condo for the next decade. Here are some ideas to get your creative break-making juices flowing:

  1. Finish reading this blog post and then turn off whatever screen you’re looking at for at least 5 minutes. Feeling brave? Do it in silence. Feeling tense? Think about relaxing each part of your body, starting with the toes and working your way up. It’s just 5 minutes. You can do it. Too easy? Make a summer resolution to do this every day and see what happens.
  2. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time and catch up.
  3. Commit to listening to an entire album you haven’t heard ever or haven’t heard in a long time. Do it in one sitting. Invite some buddies over for a listening party.
  4. Find a path you’ve never walked and walk it. (If you’re in Chapel Hill, consider these!) Find some flowers and sniff them.
  5. Take a social media hiatus. Y’all. I haven’t been on Facebook for 3 days and I feel like a new person right now.
  6. Drink some water. It’s hot.
  7. Do something you haven’t done since you were a kid. Is there a swing set at your apartment complex? Can you get your hands on a pool noodle? Are there old board games for sale at PTA Thrift Shop? Where are those crayons your roommate was waving around? Can you YouTube your favorite old cartoon?
  8. Plan a day trip to a swimming hole or a waterfall.
  9. Cook something for dinner tonight that you’ve never cooked before. Never cooked at all? Then this assignment has NO LIMITS!
  10. Read a book…for fun. When was the last time you read a book for fun??

Other ideas? Do share in the comments!

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: 11 Healthy Things to Do For and With Your Partner During Finals

I will keep this short so you can go back to studying.

As you know, finals are here.  Having a significant other during finals can provide critical social and emotional support during this stressful time.

Here are some things you can do to support your partner during finals:

  1. Support them in their efforts to refrain from Facebook, Twitter, and texting.
  2. Make them study food (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix , or egg and cheese on a biscuit!) to help them stay focused.  Not eating enough during stressful times can increase fatigue, and being hungry can be a distraction from studying.
  3. Save their favorite study spot while they are taking a break or an exam.
  4. Offer up your place to study if they have loud roommates.
  5. Do their laundry so they can sleep a little longer.
  6. If you are stressed, find a constructive way to share that stress with them without stressing them out too.
  7. Take care of their pet while they study in Davis all day so they do not have to worry.
  8. Make them a care package with healthy snacks, batteries for their calculator, and highlighters.  This may brighten their week 🙂
  9. Try not to share germs if you have the flu or a cold.  Tips on handwashing can be found here: http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/
  10. Give them a hand, neck, or back massage to relieve tension from all that typing.
  11. Encourage them to take study breaks, get exercise, and plenty of sleep. All of these things are critical for remembering facts and doing well in stressful situations.

You can also relieve finals related stress by watching a movie, taking a walk, playing video games, or taking a nap together.   Yes, sex is a stress reliever too – but  be sure you talk about it first and are using a form of contraception, or it could be a bigger stressor than stress reliever !

If you have additional suggestions Tweet, Facebook, or comment below.

Happy Finals! You can do it!

Mental Illness Awareness Week

miaw blog pic
Mental Illness Awareness Week 2015!

Yesterday kicked off Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), which is always the first full week in October each year. The goal of MIAW is to raise awareness around the topic of mental health, educate the public, and advocate for mental health issues. This year, the theme of MIAW is #IAmStigmaFree. National Alliance on Mental Illness explains that “Being Stigma Free means learning about and educating others on mental illness, focusing on connecting with people to see each other as individuals and not a diagnosis.” Additionally, this year they running the #IAmStigmaFree campaign where people can take the Stigma Free Pledge to show their support of MIAW and commit to be stigma-free!

There are lots of great events happening on campus this week to celebrate MIAW – check out the details for these events below:

 

Wednesday 10/7:

Expert Mental Health Panel and Discussion

Time: 5:30-7pm

Location: Hyde Hall (176 E. Franklin St.), University Room

Details: A panel of experts will discuss a variety of mental health topics; a Q & A session will follow. Refreshments provided!

More info: http://stigmafree.unc.edu/event/speaker-panel-1/

 

Thursday 10/8:

Yoga and Meditation Seminar hosted by NAMI at UNC

Time: 5:30-7pm

Location: Forest Theatre (the outdoor theater at the corner or Country Club Rd. and S. Boundary St.)

 

Friday 10/9:

Mental Health Awareness Day

Time: 8am-4pm

Location: Neuroscience Hospital Lobby (directions here)

Details: This is an all-day event sponsored by UNC’s Department of Psychiatry that will involve interactive displays, poster sessions, and information on community resources related to mental health.

 

Saturday 10/10:

Rethink: Psychiatric Illness Training

Time: 12-4pm

Location: TBD (more information after you register)

Details: “At the Rethink: Psychiatric Illness Training, 30 students and community members break away from societal stigma to learn the basics about mental illness, become aware of the statistics and prevalence of mental illnesses in our state and on our campus, debunk myths, learn what we can do to help ourselves or a friend in need, familiarize ourselves with the resources available on campus, and understand the specific actions we can take to act as advocates. Throughout dynamic activities which include role playing, a trivia game, crossing lines, and a talk where a UNC student shares his or her personal experience with mental illness, participants become empowered and learn how they can do their part to empower others.”

Register here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1R0YAcFc-43eZfFU28JglE6XdwqRYMzZinaRYJLeCC2M/viewform?c=0&w=1

 

Interested in getting involved and learning more about topics around mental health? There are a number of great student groups on campus to check out:

Rethink Psychiatric Illness

Embody Carolina

Stigma Free Carolina

Active Minds

National Alliance on Mental Illness on campus at UNC-Chapel Hill

 

Take a Break! Hey, Take 10

Tar Heels, if you’re still hanging around the general vicinity of North Carolina this summer, you don’t need me to tell you it’s hot, but…OMG it’s sooooo hot! If you’re anything like me, a long string of hot days might make you complain a lot and think less clearly than you might otherwise.

Also, while the pictures on my Facebook feed tell me that this is vacation time for a lot of people…it might not feel like vacation time for all of us. Yes, NECESSITY, as well as our culture that socializes us to ideals of BUSY! and ACHIEVEMENTS!, can chase us down even into these summer months.

So, please allow me to be your Captain Obvious right now and give you a loving reminder:

Here is a comfy pink chair in the forest a person might sit in if they were taking a break.
Here is a comfy pink chair in the forest a person might sit in if they were taking a break.

Take a break.

Take a break! There are many ways to take a break today, this week, this month, this summer, even if you’re jamming out in Summer Session II and can’t afford a beach condo for the next decade. Here are some ideas to get your creative break-making juices flowing:

  1. Finish reading this blog post and then turn off whatever screen you’re looking at for at least 5 minutes. Feeling brave? Do it in silence. Feeling tense? Think about relaxing each part of your body, starting with the toes and working your way up. It’s just 5 minutes. You can do it. Too easy? Make a summer resolution to do this every day and see what happens.
  2. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time and catch up.
  3. Commit to listening to an entire album you haven’t heard ever or haven’t heard in a long time. Do it in one sitting. Invite some buddies over for a listening party.
  4. Find a path you’ve never walked and walk it. (If you’re in Chapel Hill, consider these!) Find some flowers and sniff them.
  5. Take a social media hiatus. Y’all. I haven’t been on Facebook for 3 days and I feel like a new person right now.
  6. Drink some water. It’s hot.
  7. Do something you haven’t done since you were a kid. Is there a swing set at your apartment complex? Can you get your hands on a pool noodle? Are there old board games for sale at PTA Thrift Shop? Where are those crayons your roommate was waving around? Can you YouTube your favorite old cartoon?
  8. Plan a day trip to a swimming hole or a waterfall.
  9. Cook something for dinner tonight that you’ve never cooked before. Never cooked at all? Then this assignment has NO LIMITS!
  10. Read a book…for fun. When was the last time you read a book for fun??

Other ideas? Do share in the comments!

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: 10 Day Challenge – It’s Time to UNPLUG!

This blog post was originally published on November 22, 2013 and was written by Jani Radhakrishnan.

A 2013 Mobile Consumer Habit survey reported that 72% of U.S. adults that own smartphones keep it within five feet of them the majority of the time. [Mine is currently about 8 inches away from my computer!] That same study reported that out of 1102 respondents, 55% USED their smartphone while driving, 33% while on a date, 12% in the shower, and 20% of adults ages 18-34….during sex. O2 released a study that indicated that the ‘phone’ function on a smartphone is the fifth most frequently used function. In fact, the study reports that smartphones now replace alarm clocks, cameras, televisions, and physical books.

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.physorg.com/newman/gfx/news/hires/thenumberofm.jpg
Image from cdn.physorg.com

Have you seen this creative video representing our addiction to phones?

Or read this news article about a San Francisco train shooting where “passengers were too distracted by phones to notice the shooter’s gun in plain sight”? With all this new ‘connectivity,’ we are not actually connecting to the world and the people around us. In fact, surveys indicate that 13% of cell phone owners pretend to use their phone to avoid interacting with people around them.

https://i0.wp.com/images.teamsugar.com/files/upl1/0/3362/14_2008/cell.jpg
Image from teamsugar.com

The other day, my phone died while waiting for the bus [It was horrible!]. So, rather than staring mindlessly in to space, I made some small-talk with a guy heading to Carrboro and told him he could take the J and not wait 45 minutes for the CW. It felt good. It got me thinking….

It’s time to UNPLUG! I have come up with a 10 day challenge, and I invite you to try it with me. Since we all have work, school, and social lives, I have fairly realistic expectations. Still, I think we can semi-unplug from the world more often than we think. So, here it is:

Jani’s 10 day Challenge of Unplugging

  • Day 1 Friday: When you’re out with a partner or friend, make a deal to keep your phones in your pockets, bags, etc.
  • Day 2 Saturday: It’s the weekend! Do not check your work or school email accounts. Not even once.
  • Day 3 Sunday: Invest in a watch! Since it is Sunday, maybe you have some time to go find one. This way, you can check your watch for the time instead of your phone.
  • Day 4 Monday: Read the DTH or a hardcopy of some magazine or newspaper to check out any local events happening this week.
  • Day 5 Tuesday: Do not spend all day at a computer. Time yourself so that every hour, you get up and walk around for about 5 minutes. During that time, say hi to a colleague, another student, or a friend. Whatever you do, do not take your phone with you.
  • Day 6 Wednesday: While eating meals, keep your phone in a separate room, on silent.
  • Day 7 Thursday: At work, your room, or the library, open your email only twice per hour. [Coming from someone who permanently keeps the email tab open while on my computer, I know this will be my biggest challenge]
  • Day 8 Friday: When you are watching television, and a commercial comes on, do anything other than pulling out your phone.  Maybe even jumping jacks!
  • Day 9 Saturday: If the weather is nice, enjoy the outdoors! Go for a hike or to the park, and leave your phone at home or in the car. [If you do not feel safe, keep your phone with you but do not look at it!] If it is rainy or cold outside, enjoy a hot beverage of your choice and a movie in the comfort of your own home, and turn your phone completely off during this time.
  • Day 10 Sunday: It is the last day of the challenge and I am hoping that tomorrow we can return to work or school feeling completely rejuvenated and ready to take on the world. What are we going to do to celebrate? Find a moment to answer a text with a phone call or Skype date instead of another text.

[TIPS for Success: Hey iPhone users, did you know there is a function on your phone called “Do Not Disturb” that will save incoming calls, messages, and alerts for later until you unlock your phone?]

My hope is that together, we can all unplug from this world and be in the moment for at least 10 days and continue some of these habits for our minds’ sake. You will be happier, your friends will be happier, and your mental health and boss or professor may be happier, too!

~JR

The Silence Surrounding Men’s Health

This week is National Men’s Health Week and a perfect time for male-identified individuals at UNC to make sure health and wellness are a top priority in their daily lives.

Keyboard with health button highlighted in bright green.
Health by Got Credit, Flickr, Creative Commons.

According to the National Center for Disease Control, Men’s Health Week is a time when men should remember to: get good sleep, toss out the tobacco, move more, eat healthy, tame stress, get regular medical checkups, and make sure you have affordable healthcare.

But in addition to these more commonly discussed health priorities for men, it’s also important for men to know about resources that can help them deal some of the more “taboo” or unspoken subjects related to men’s health. For example, issues like eating disorders are rarely openly discussed when it comes to men’s health.

Despite the silence surrounding this issue, according to the National Association for Men with Eating Disorders, one in four individuals with an eating disorder is a man. Men often falsely view eating disorders as issues that “don’t affect them” or see them stereotypically as “women’s issues.” These notions are false, rooted in sexism, and harmful to men.

Issues like eating disorders can be hard for men to talk about openly and honestly. The culture of dominant masculinity teaches men to always act tough and to deny issues that are stereotypically associated with women’s health. This sentiment is deeply detrimental to men’s health and leads many men to feel isolated and alone when dealing with issues of disordered eating.

It’s important that we talk openly and honestly about men’s health and that men on our campus know they have resources available. Let’s work together to support people across the gender spectrum who may be dealing with eating disorders and advocate for a National Men’s Health Week that discusses all the issues of health and wellness that affect men.

UNC Old Well
Phone Pic #66 by Mr. Jincks, Flickr, Creative Commons.

If you or someone you know is dealing with an eating disorder at UNC, there are resources available to help and support you.

Embody Carolina, a student group whose mission is to “educate students about identifying and supporting someone struggling with an eating disorder,” has a great resource page available on their website with various options for students seeking help or guidance.

Click here to learn about steps you can take to get help today.

Sources

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/men/nmhw/
  2. http://namedinc.org/
  3. http://www.embodycarolina.com/

 

 

 

 

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Avoiding the Stress Competition and 6 Other Tips for Surviving Finals

This blog was originally posted on April 30, 2012 and was written by Sarah Weller. Also check out this post by Bob Pleasants for more study tips or The Learning Center for finals week services like Study Boot Camps, Academic Coaching and Peer Tutoring!

Finals period! Oh what a wonderful time of year!

Sike. Let’s just be blunt. Finals. Period. Sucks. It’s a stressful time of year. End of story. There is really no way that a 2 week period testing your knowledge on ALLLL the things that you learned during the past 14 weeks could be anything but a little stressful.  But there are some ways to make it suck less, and maybe to even harness some of that stress for good.

  Above all- Don’t Engage in the Stress Competition at all costs!!!

Person 1:“I’m so stressed. I have 2 papers, and 3 finals to go. I’ve been up since, like, 6:30 this morning.”

Person 2: “Uh, me too. I’ve had like 6 cups of coffee today. I only got like 3 hours of sleep.”

Person 1: “Oh yea, I only got like 2.5. I had to finish that take home we had due for biochem.”

How often have you been hanging out with friends during high-stress times like finals period and suddenly found yourself in a similar conversation, wherein, one person’s stressors just feeds off the other’s. BEWARE! While this might seem like simple commiseration, it only serves to perpetuate an atmosphere of stress! In fact, let’s all actively FIGHT the stress competition. When you find yourself beginning to engage in a Stress Competition, immediately say something nice. Something positive. Do jumping jacks. Make a scene. ANYTHING but engage in the stress competition- for serious.

Oh and here are 6 other handy tips for finals times…

1.       Make a Schedule: Sound familiar? You’ve probably received this advice on repeated occasions, but it’s a good suggestion, so it bears repeating. Many times, stress stems from trying to squeeze too much into too little time. By setting out a schedule, you help to structure your time, ensuring that you’re not left at the 12th hour with 20+ pages to read/write. (Bonus: By creating a schedule and using your time wisely you have more time for #3 and #4!)

2.       Prioritize: Much like making a schedule, prioritizing helps you to avoid that last minute cram.

3.       Avoid Productive Procrastination (Or Procrastination At all): Personally, I often try to do smaller easier tasks, while ignoring my looming larger assignments, something a friend of mine calls productive procrastination. While this might seem like at least I’m getting something done, it really just causes me extra stress when I have to scrabble to finish the BIG assignments in the end. Those little assignments aren’t going anywhere, and they’ll be just as easy when you’re done with the big one. Same thing for procrastination at all. It’s only going to sneak up on you in the end. Facebook, Twitter, that trip to Taco Bell will still be there when you’re done (and can even serve as a pleasant reward for finishing!)

4.       Take Care of Yourself: I CANNOT repeat this enough. If your body is not well, your mind is not well. Deprive it of the essentials– sleep, nutrients from good food– it’s just not going to perform the way you want it to, and you’re not going to perform the way that you want to. So treat your body right. Take care of yourself.

5.       Don’t Forget Balance: Staying balanced during finals period can be hard. But don’t forget to intersperse some of the activities that really make you happy in between papers and study sessions.

6.       Set Realistic Goals: Know what you can and cannot do. Finishing an X page paper in X amount of time might be realistic for some, but not for you. Use this knowledge to help guide you in #1 and #2.
Any other great suggestions on avoiding finals time stress?

Being Uncomfortable Can be Good for You

Photo: Into the White by Corey Templeton, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo: Into the White by Corey Templeton, Flickr Creative Commons

As I walked to work last Thursday on a breezy, brisk (one might say down right cold) 12 degree morning, I noticed the slow onset of pain in my fingers, as the blood left them and moved towards the center of my body. This is an amazing evolutionary adaptation which basically keeps our most important organs functioning in really cold weather, but anyways. The wind bit my face and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. It was cold, and I am guessing like many others, I found myself thinking, I wish it would warm up a little.

Along the same lines, I also often find myself longing for changes in the weather during summers in the Triangle. For me, they are too hot and humid. I don’t like 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity. When I am out working in that kind of weather, and instantaneously the sweat starts beading up on my forehead and rolling down my back, I just want to get out of it, into the comfort of my air conditioned house. But in moments like both of these (hot and cold) I often have to tell myself to stop, and instead I try to be mindful and present with the discomfort, and I have realized that being uncomfortable is a really good thing.

It seems like the majority of engineering, innovation, and technology today is geared towards making things easier or making people more comfortable: lotion and baby wipe warmers, driver and passenger side climate control in cars, heated floors, the newest fastest computer and cell phone, and of course all the grab and go, disposable EVERTHING! They all seem really nice and why shouldn’t we buy, use, and throw away all these comforts? We shouldn’t because too much comfort is not good for any part of our health, even our mental health. According to brain scientist Gregory Berns of Emory University School of Medicine, “The two key factors in long-term life satisfaction are novelty and challenge,” and being too comfortable does not allow for either of these. Additionally, it is also not good for the health of the environment, the workers who make these cheap disposable products, and it is not even good for you in the long run.

Photo by Live Life Happy, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Live Life Happy, Flickr Creative Commons

In order to learn, we have to step out of our comfort zone, and in order to appreciate the good we have to experience a little bit of the bad. I hope that you understand that I am not promoting constant discomfort, pain, or suffering. I cannot tell you where that line is for you, and it is different for everybody. I am simply saying that resilience, growth, and mental and physical health are often born from a small bit of discomfort. Exercising often hurts, but it makes you stronger and healthier. Eating healthy food is not always fun, but it allows you to really appreciate the “comfort foods” when you have them once in a while. Resilience and positive ways of dealing with stress are often achieved in the presence of adversity. And to bring me back to where I started, in order to appreciate that perfect 75-80 degree, sunny, low humidity day and really be mindful of how great it is, sometimes you need to sweat and sometimes you need to freeze (a little). If you live your life in a climate controlled world, with every want and need met, and no discomfort, you never grow.

Stop the Stigma: Mental Health Depictions in the Movies

scary hand
photo Scary Movie 5 – in theaters next spring! by M Rasoulov from flickrcreativecommons

Fall is my favorite time of year; the leaves begin to fall, the weather gets a little cooler, and the aroma of spiced coffees and teas fills the air. And you can’t forget about all of the scary suspense-filled movies that start to take over your television screen. In light of mental health awareness week, as well as practicing being a more critical consumer of media, I think it’s worth exploring the stigma surrounding mental illness that is often carried out in some of our favorite movies.

Oftentimes in suspense or horror movies the villain is seen as an antagonist, a violent, evil genius with mental illness that is rampant beyond the help of doctors. In contrast, protagonists are seldom portrayed as having some sort of mental illness. A great example of this is demonstrated in the movie American Psycho. The main character, Patrick Bateman, is glamorously portrayed as a wealthy, standoffish killer suspected to have antisocial personality disorder and possibly dissociative identity disorder, while all of the other characters are depicted as “normal” friends and coworkers. This discrepancy between Bateman’s character and the other characters within the movie highlights the “them vs. us” mentality that is often associated with persons with mental illnesses.

In order to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, education and awareness must be raised. When something is unknown it is easy to be fearful of it and project that fear onto the unknown entity. While movies that depict characters living with mental illness may be entertaining to watch, it is important to understand how this can have unintended effects on those who deal with mental illness on a daily basis.

With this in mind, here some things to keep in mind to reduce stigma:

  • Treat someone as a person, not a label

Treat people as individuals rather than the labels that society places on everyone. Continuing to utilize labels further repeats the cycle of stigma.

  • Use “person first” language

Instead of saying “that bipolar guy in class”, when referring to someone, use wording such as “the guy in class who has bipolar disorder”. People are not their diagnoses. They just happen to have a diagnosis.

  • Avoid using harmful words

Words such as “crazy” and “psycho” are not only hurtful, but also disrespectful.

  • Be sure to check out Stigma Free Carolina for more information about how you can get involved in reducing stigma on campus!

Find more information on how to reduce stigma here: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/CM0201.pdf