Overview: Negative attitudes about mental illness often underlie stigma, which can cause affected persons to deny symptoms; delay treatment; be excluded from employment, housing, or relationships; and interfere with recovery. With support and treatment, between 70 and 90 percent of individuals diagnosed with a mental illness have a significant reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life.
Myth #1: People with mental illnesses are violent and unpredictable.
Fact: In reality, the vast majority of people who have mental health needs are no more violent than anyone else. You probably know someone with a mental illness and don’t even realize it.
Myth #2: Mental illnesses are brought on by a weakness of character.
Fact: Mental illnesses are a product of the interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors. Research has shown genetic and biological factors can be factors in mental health illnesses and diagnoses. Social influences, such as loss of a loved one or a job, can also contribute to the development of various disorders.
Effects: Stigma about mental health leads people to reject, avoid, or fear those they perceive as being different. Discrimination occurs when people act upon these attitudes and beliefs in ways that can deprive others of their rights and life opportunities.
Actions: Educate yourself and others. See the person and not the illness. Speak up when you hear inaccurate information about mental health and share the facts. Talk openly with your support system about what you are experiencing. Stay in touch with families and friends. Give them specific things to do what to help during recovery.
Overview: Bullying is a form of harassment by someone who is in some way more powerful physically or socially than a weaker peer. More than one out of every five (20.8%) students report being bullied.
Myth #1: Being bullied builds character
Fact: Research findings quite clearly show that bullying experiences increase the vulnerabilities of children. For example, we know that children who are passive and socially withdrawn are at heightened risk of getting bullied and that these children become even more withdrawn after incidents of harassment.
Myth #2: Bullying has no effect on those not directly involved.
Fact: In most incidents, at least four other peers were present as witnesses, bystanders, assistants to bullies, reinforcers, or defenders of victims. One observation study found that in more than 50% of the observed incidents of bullying, peers reinforced bullies by passively watching. In only about 25% of the incidents did witnesses support the victim by directly intervening, distracting, or discouraging the bully.
Effects: There are two types of kids who are more likely to bully others: Some are well-connected to their peers, have social power, are overly concerned about their popularity, and like to dominate or be in charge of others. Others are more isolated from their peers and may be depressed or anxious, have low self-esteem, be less involved in school, be easily pressured by peers, or not identify with the emotions or feelings of others. Students who are both targets of bullying and engage in bullying behavior are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems.
Actions: If you witness bullying, stop bullying on the spot. Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another individual to help. Find out what happened. Support the persons involved. Be more than a Bystander. Don’t ignore bullying. Encourage kids to report bullying. Don’t think kids can work it out without adult help.
- What would you do if you thought a friend was considering taking their life?
- Who would you call or tell? Where would you go for help?
Overview: Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15-24 year old Americans. It’s also thought that at least 25 attempts are made for every completed teen suicide
Myth #1: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
Fact: Almost everyone who attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Don’t ignore even indirect references to death or suicide. Statements like “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone,” “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.
Myth #2: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
Fact: You don’t give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true—bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do. 4
- Average number of teen suicides per day. . . . 12
- Average number of teen suicides attempts per year . . . 575,000
- Percent of high school students surveyed who said they have “seriously considered suicide”. . . 0 %
- Percent of students grades 9-12 who reported seriously considering suicide. . . 16 %
- Percent who reported creating a plan / ideation . . . 13 %
- Annual number of youth (age 10-24) who receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries. . . 157,000
Effects: Suicide attempts and behaviors can leave behind a number of devastating effects not only for the individual, but for those around them as well. It’s estimated that for every suicide there are at least 6 suicide survivors. Suicide survivors are those who are left behind after a loved one has ended their life.
Actions: Speak up if you’re worried. Respond quickly in a crisis. Offer help and support.
It’s Your Move
How to Help – C.L.U.E.S.
By being aware of warning signs of bullying, suicide, and stigma, you can recognize when a friend needs help. The word “CLUES: gives you clues about how to help.
- Connect. Take the problem seriously. If you are concerned about a friend, find a time to talk with the person privately and express your concern. Give specific examples of the behavior that concerns you. The trusting strong relationship you have makes it easier to be direct, and your friend will probably be glad that you took time to connect. Offer to join the person in some activity they normally enjoy. They need a chance to have some fun and get their mind cleared.
- Listen. Be prepared to listen to whatever is bothering your friend. Even if it seems unimportant to you, listen in a nonjudgmental way. Encourage your friend to talk by avoiding questions. Start sentences with “Tell me about…” You don’t need to give advice or solutions. Just being attentive is often enough.
- Understand. After listening tell your friend that you understand his/her problem. Tell him/her that you understand how difficult the problem is, and that you understand the feelings. Their problem is real to them. Understanding is not necessarily agreeing. Never support destructive behavior. Get help if you need to.
- Express concern. One of the most effective ways of letting a friend know you are concerned is to say, “I’m a little worried about you because…” Let them know that it would matter to you if something happened to them. Tell your friend that you are not going to ignore the problem and that your friendship is too important for that. Stay in touch. Reach out. Stick with them.
- Seek help. Trust is important in any friendship. However, if you feel that your friend is in danger of hurting him/herself or someone else, you must seek help immediately. Offer to go with your friend to talk with an adult. Depression and suicide are problems too big to handle alone. Your friend’s wellbeing is most important so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Calling the Crisis Line or going to a trusted adult is the place to start.
Remember even if you follow the clues, you may not be able to stop destructive behavior and you are not responsible for the choices your friends make.
• Didi Hirsch
Crisis Line: 800 273-8255
• American Association of Suicidology (AAS)
• American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
• National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
National: (800) 950-6264
• California: (916) 567-0163
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
• Dealing with Bullying