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Stop talking and say something: encourages conversation to tackle mental illness

This May, as we celebrate National Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s time to stop talking and say something. While 1 in 5 Americans struggle with mental health, only 44% of adults and less than 20% of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need. Mental health is vital for a high quality of life, so what can we do to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and get people that are suffering the help they need?

The website offers a solution. Face the Issue seeks to “To break the stigma and resulting silence that surrounds a wide range of mental health issues by promoting healthy, productive conversations.” While national campaigns and local programs are important ways to educate the public about mental health, they can be impersonal and thus may not always be effective. For this reason, Jane Semel and Melanie Hall created in 2003 as a resource where friends and family could find tips and tools for how to talk to their their loved ones with mental illness in order to help them to cope and find the help they need.

Face the Issue address three major forms of mental illness: mood disorders (e.g. depression), eating disorders (e.g. anorexia), and neurotic disorders (e.g. anxiety). The site briefly describes each category of mental illness, giving examples of disorders that fall under these categories and providing descriptions of potential symptoms and danger signs. Then, it gives tips about how to start and shape conversations about these disorders (e.g. using “I statements,” being specific, referring loved ones to professionals for further help) as well as specific things to avoid in conversations. For example, if your loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, it’s important to not comment on their bodies (e.g. “But you look great!”), because comments about their physical appearance could be triggering. In addition to this overview of how to have a conversation about mental health, the site also provides additional websites where friends and family can learn more about mental health as well as a search function that connects users with local mental health providers.

Face the Issue asserts that “Starting a conversation is the first step in supporting those with mental illness and helping to guide them toward recovery.” So, if you have a loved one that is currently struggling with mental health or that might be in danger, I encourage you to first visit to learn how to talk to them about it. Just showing them that you love and care about them and that you are willing and able to support them on the road to recovery is invaluable; a simple “Hey, how are you?” could be the first step to getting someone the help they need to live a fulfilling life.

The MindWell pod and the Healthy Campus Initiative are committed to supporting the mental health of the UCLA community, so for additional mental health resources you can check out the MindWell pod’s resources page on our website.

Danielle de Bruin is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also published in the journal PLOS Medicine and the Huffington Post.

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