Why is it that its perfectly acceptable for someone to have a physical illness or condition, but not a mental one? The stigma behind mental illnesses often makes those who struggle with them, remain silent for far too long. It is that fear of being called "crazy" or "insane" that prevents people from seeking help from a professional or a support system. No one should feel judge or ashamed just for having a chemical imbalance in the brain. Their conditions are not their faults, so why should they pay for them?

Living with a mental condition is hard enough on its own, why do we need to add the unnecessary judgment of society to it? If you are someone who wants to do something to change this and is eager to be part of the supportive part of society, here is what you can do to abolish the stigma of mental illnesses.

Share your story

According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 Americans live with a mental health condition. Mental illnesses are a lot more common than we think, and its time we all realize this. If you are someone who is struggling with one, you can use your own experiences and struggles to raise awareness for the cause. I know this might be hard for some of you and I understand not everyone might be comfortable with exposing this personal side of them, but this really is your chance to inspire those who need it. Your chance to show that you can surpass certain things and prove to those who don't believe, that you can survive mental illnesses

Additionally, if people can put a face to a disorder, it helps them understand what is behind that label. You are more than your diagnosis and it is time to show everyone that you are not a bipolar person, a depressed college student, or a writer with PTSD. You are more. You are a dreamer, a student, a writer, a son, a businesswomen, etc.. Show the world that you are someone with a personality and aspirations, not just your diagnosis. 

Educate yourself

When you know the facts behind different illnesses and conditions, it is easier to realize that all stigmas are either lies or exaggerations. When you educate yourself, you start to realize that being bipolar is not to rapidly change your mind about certain decisions or that having social anxiety is a lot more than a fancy term for shame. Most importantly, once you've learned more about the subject, you can also call out people for using stereotypes. It is important not only to know better yourself, but to help others know better, too. 

A good way to start educating ourselves about mental illnesses, is to learn the symptoms and treatment of different diagnosis. By doing this it is going to be a lot easier to understand what all of those who battle these illnesses go through. Even though this is really helpful, you can take your eagerness to learn and read different personal stories of people who have struggled with mental illnesses. By educating yourself on how different people deal with different diagnosis throughout their lives, you can start treating them with more empathy and comprehension.  

Take the stigmafree pledge

For years, NAMI has seen the problem of mental health stigma as "a public health concern that leads peoples to 'avoid living, socializing or working with, renting to, or employing' individuals with mental illness". Now, NAMI is asking for your help to show support and solidarity for all of those who battle to defy this stigma each day of their lives. By signing the pledge, you are doing your part to reverse the negative consequences of society's stigma against mental health. By affirming you are part of this movement, you are giving hope to all those who fight their diagnosis that we can all promote a more accepting environment if we fight together. 

What exactly are you signing? You are pledging to use respectful language when referring to someone who has a mental illness, offer support whenever you see someone who might need it, and educating everyone about all the issues of this subject. This pledge is a promise that you are not going to refer to someone as mentally ill, but rather as someone who is battling a mental illness. It is also a promise that you are not going to refer to someone as their diagnosis, but instead as someone who has that diagnosis. For instance, people who have bipolar disorder are living with bipolar disorder; they are not a bipolar person.

Give to NAMI

In case you are not very familiar with their work, NAMI is the biggest mental health organization in the USA. Their mission is to give to all those who struggle with mental illnesses, a stigma-free world where they can experience hope and recovery. They provide support, education, and awareness events, as well as promote research for over 900 communities and more than 44,000 people. 

If you want to show your support for their mission, you can set up a personal donation via mail and phone, or an honorary or memorial donation as a gift in honor of someone special. Another different way to donate funds to the cause is to set up your own fundraiser or donation event to help support NAMI. So if you want to get more involved, you can organize a dinner party, bowling tournament, or even a race to support the cause. Remember, we are all in this together, so if you want to learn more about the many ways that you, your family, your school, or even your workplace can donate, don't hesitate to click here

Attend events that support the cause 

Donating is an important part of showing your support, but it is not the most important one. Attending events and showing your support just by being there is also an important part of eliminating the stigma of mental illnesses. When you attend events you are showing that there is no shame to talking about mental illnesses and that there is no reason to hide when it comes to this topic. 

If you are still motivated to continue to educate and encourage the normalization of mental illnesses, NAMI's National Convention is the right place for you. They host one every year in a different city, so if you find yourself in Washington DC during June 28 – July 1, don't be a stranger and try to show up. However, if you can't make it, don't feel sorry. A lot of cities and states have local organizations that need your support just as well. And not only that, but NAMI also hosts a lot of different events in different cities through the year. If you want to see if there are other ones you can attend, click here

Improve mental health through legislative advocacy

If you are still wondering what you can do to abolish the stigma of mental illnesses and are eager to talk to your Senator on improving America's mental health, you should be joining Mental Health America's Advocacy Network. Through this network, you can be up to date with the efforts of different organizations and chapters, so you can know which initiatives and policies need your help. 

MHA's Regional Policy Council, for instance, has been motivated since 2009 "to initiate, advocate for, and implement federal and state policies that positively affect the lives of children, youth, and adults with mental health and substance use conditions". The Regional Policy Council is the perfect initiative if you are looking to fight the challenges that those who battle mental illnesses face with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid Expansion, the Mental Health Parity and Equity Act (MHPAEA), etc.. MHA has also created a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promote mental health across America, as well as treating them before it is too late. Through this organization "MHA collaborates with scientists, practitioners, policy experts, advocates, and other community leaders to design policy recommendations" that help promote an adequate early detection, treatment, and effective recovery to everyone who might need it. 

I really hope this article motivates you to participate and support all of those who have to fight with their mental conditions on a daily basis. This article is just a few ways you can help. Next time you are wondering abut what you can do to abolish the stigma of mental illnesses, remember that even though all the ones included in the list are important, there are even more ways.

If you are still deciding if you should help or not, think about what side of history you want to be on in a few years and remember that now is the perfect time to do something to end up in the positive side of it. Remember that this is an important issue we should all help and fight as a global community