December 18, 2021

Ways you can help end mental health stigma

When it comes to physical injuries, we immediately rush ourselves to the nearest hospital, simply because we feel the physical pain and realise the need to be treated. But do we treat our mental health with the same care and urgency?

Many tend to delay or avoid receiving treatment for their mental illness due to the prevalent prejudice and discrimination against individuals with mental illness. It has been estimated that only 20% of Malaysians with a mental illness seek professional help, mainly due to the social stigma that surrounds it. This paints a worrying picture considering that the Ministry of Health reported that a third of Malaysians experience issues with their mental health.

Stigma against people with mental illness can exacerbate their problems, thus making recovery more difficult. Therefore, standing up to any false preconceptions regarding mental health is vital in providing a voice to those who have been suffering in silence and normalising professional help for mental illnesses.

Here are some steps you can take to help end the stigma against mental illness.

  • Normalise talking about mental health. Speak openly about mental health and provide a safe space for people to come forth with their questions, worries and experiences about mental health.
  • Educate yourself and others. Disband the myths and taboos surrounding mental illnesses by sharing facts as well as first-hand experiences.
  • Be mindful of the language you use. Words, whether “positive” or “negative” have power and could affect others. Using proper language is crucial in addressing mental illnesses.
  • Advocate for equal treatment of both physical and mental illnesses. Draw comparisons to how someone with a physical illness would be treated.
  • Practise compassion. Show empathy for those dealing with a mental illness.
  • Be honest and open about treatments. Normalise seeking professional help for mental health, just as you would with other healthcare treatments.
  • Be supportive. Providing encouragement to those struggling with their mental health would motivate them to seek the help they need
Mental health stigma may cause people to feel isolated.

The stigma surrounding mental illness can be a huge obstacle to people accessing much-needed help. They are more than just snide notions or remarks. Such prejudice has demonstrable adverse effects on individuals with mental illnesses. Therefore, we should strive to be an ally in the fight against stigma rather than contributing to the problem.

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  1. Raaj S, Navanathan S, Tharmaselan M, Lally J. Mental disorders in Malaysia: an increase in lifetime prevalence. BJPsych Int. 2021;18(4):97-9.
  2. Subramaniam S. Mental health problems in Malaysia [Press Statement]. Ministry of Health, Malaysia; 2016 September 28. Available at Accessed on 2 June 2022.
  3. American Psychiatric Association. Stigma, prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illness. Available at Accessed on 2 June 2022.
  4. American Psychiatric Association. Bias and stigma in health care systems. Available at Accessed on 2 June 2022.