Working to end prejudice

By Active Minds

Macalester is, or is supposed to be, friendly, accepting, supportive and nurturing of students’ growth. And in many respects it is. However, the area of mental health stands out to me. Don’t get me wrong, Macalester provides many good services for a school its size, and students provide support for each other as well. The problem is that we are still not where we should be and mental health issues and their discussion are not as out in the open as they should be.
Standing outside the Campus Center and forcing all the people passing by to listen to everything that is going on in your head? Not the best idea. Having a campus wide environment in which people feel comfortable talking about themselves without having to worry about prejudiced or stigmatized reactions (however unintentional that prejudice or stigma may be)? A better one.

The difficulty is, much of this stigma is unknown by the possessors to be stigma or false impressions to be as harmful as it is. I do not mean to sound like some addiction recovery program, but a big and easy thing you can do is accept and admit that you likely have some misimpressions, that your understanding of some mental health issues, if not flawed, is at least not full. Nobody’s understanding is, regardless of how many mental health issues you have, how many friends with mental health issues you have, or if you are a professional psychiatrist.

If somebody brings up a mental health issue, regardless of whether it is a clinical diagnosis or not, you can be supportive without being perfect, without trying to solve everything. In fact, you are not the solution to everything, so however much you want to be able to be such, it is better if you don’t try to act like you can be such. Try to convey ideas along the lines of how you don’t know everything/that much/anything about the mental health issue(s), so you are sorry if you offend or hurt the person, and that you would like to change that. And if the person does bring up criticisms, listen, and try to take them constructively. If you don’t understand a reaction, ask. If you are unsure of what you can do to support the person, ask.
You might not get the sort of answer you wanted, but not understanding, or seeming like you don’t understand, is better than seeming like you don’t care. Something that is imperfect and improving is better than something that is imperfect and not improving.

Granted, what I am referring to is on a smaller scale. However, it is an essential step that needs to be accomplished in order for stigma to be removed on a larger scale.