Chelsea and England’s Ben Chilwell said the stigma around mental health “needs to go.” He was speaking about the help he received when he suffered a hamstring injury just weeks before the World Cup. It is great to see someone with a huge public profile speak out. But how can we reduce the mental health stigma?
We can all play our part, and this article brings together tips that we can use to help out.
Ben Chilwell’s story
The 26-year-old admitted the injury blow was “very challenging” but that he found talking about his feelings helped him through. “I’ve been talking to someone for a few years now,” said Chilwell, “I think the stigma around it is silly really, especially with men and men in football in particular.
“The way it has helped me, it can definitely help everyone. The stigma around it is something that needs to go.”
He continued, on the needs to reduce mental health stigma: “Of course mentally it is very challenging. All footballers go through periods of their career where things are mentally challenging. You have got to be resilient, be strong and try come through it. That is the way I have tried to look at injuries I have had, spin them into positive situations where I can better myself mentally and physically.
Why is there a stigma about mental health?
Stigma about mental health is complex. Some of it may stem from a time when people valued the ‘stiff upper lip’ and thought that showing emotion was somehow weak. This is gradually changing, but slowly. The more people like Ben Chilwell speak out, the quicker it will be seen as a key element of our wellbeing.
The fact that mental health is invisible doesn’t help some people understand it. With a broken arm, you can see the ailment, with mental health issues you cannot. This can lead to misunderstanding and fear, which sees some people to distance themselves from the conversation and disengage.
How to reduce mental health stigma
It is in all of our interests to reduce mental health stigma, and there are some steps we can take:
- Focus on the positives when we meet people. Mental health problems are part of the person, but they don’t define that person completely.
- Think about the words that we use. Words matter in forming attitudes.
- Support your friends. If we all support each other with our struggles, it can make things less daunting.
- Challenge stereotypes or ‘fake news’ about mental health wherever you come across it
Of course, we can only control our small sphere of influence, but if everyone makes the effort, then it benefits others and ourselves at the same time.