From Shame to Strength: 5 Ways to Break the Stigma Around Anxiety

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Anxiety and mental health are often seen as "hush-hush" subjects because of the stigma and shame that surrounds them. But the reality is  these issues affect millions of people worldwide, regardless of their background or status.


As the founder of Shelly Qualtieri & Associates Counselling & Coaching and as a social worker, I've seen firsthand how stigma can hurt people with anxiety and mental health disorders. People with these conditions may not get the help they need because they are embarrassed, which can make their symptoms worse and lower their quality of life.


But it doesn't have to be this way. By breaking down the walls surrounding anxiety and mental health, we can create a more supportive environment for those who struggle with these issues. 


Let's take a look at five proactive steps we can all take to fight the stigma around mental health and make our society more caring.

Here are 5 Ways to Break the Stigma Around Anxiety and Mental Health


Ways to Educate Yourself and Others About Mental Health


To challenge the biases often seen around mental health, education is key. Take the time to learn about the different kinds of anxiety and other mental health disorders so you can be a better advocate for yourself and others. Doing this will help you understand, recognize, and deal with these conditions if they happen to you or someone close to you. By learning more about mental health conditions, we can get rid of the shame that surrounds them and make our society more accepting.


One easy entry-level resource for learning more about mental health is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Their website has a lot of information about anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, among other mental health problems. They also offer resources for finding local support groups and treatment options.


Encourage Open Communication


Creating an open dialogue around mental health is crucial to reducing the stigma. Encourage friends, family members, coworkers, or classmates to talk about their experiences with anxiety or other mental health conditions. Listen without judgement and offer support when needed.


If you notice a coworker suffering from burnout, it may be beneficial to initiate a conversation about mental health with them, opening up to them through dialogue and conveying something like. 


"I've noticed that you seem really overwhelmed lately. Is there anything I can do for support?" 

By starting a simple conversation without judgement, the stigma around mental health in the workplace will become less of a problem and it will create a more comfortable environment for everyone.


Advocate for Change


Advocacy is another powerful way to reduce the stigma around anxiety and other mental health conditions. Speak out against discrimination or negative attitudes towards those with mental illnesses.


Support policies that make it easier for people who are having trouble with their mental health to get affordable health care and make an effort to support organisations working towards promoting awareness about these issues.


Using our voices and pushing for positive change can make a big difference in the lives of people with mental health problems. For instance, attending local community meetings where we can share stories about how proper attention to mental health has helped others will not only boost awareness but also result in tangible policy changes. Furthermore, donating both time and money to organisations that work on promoting a better public understanding of anxiety, depression, and other such disorders is another great way to contribute to this cause.


By working together and pushing for a better way of thinking about mental health problems, we can help reduce stigma and make sure everyone has access to the services they need.


Foster Supportive Environments


We touched on this briefly earlier, but let's give it our full attention. Getting rid of stigma requires people to feel safe talking about their struggles with anxiety or other mental health problems in supportive settings.


Setting up support groups in schools or workplaces can be a great way to build a sense of community and give people a place to meet others who may be going through similar problems.


Google, for example, has wellness programs that include things like counselling services, workshops on mindfulness, and support groups run by employees.


By providing these resources, Google is sending a clear message that they value the mental health of their employees and are committed to creating a supportive work environment.


Overall, creating support groups within schools or workplaces can help break down barriers and reduce the stigma around mental health. It allows individuals to find common ground in shared experiences or interests while receiving emotional support from others who understand what they're going through.


If you need more help with this, our team is currently offering coaching services. Reach out today to get started.


Lead by Example


Lastly, one of the best ways to reduce the stigma around anxiety and other mental health conditions is to set a good example. It may sound easier said than done, but we want to encourage you! Don't be afraid to be the only person discussing mental health at school or work; by doing so, you are effecting incredible change for yourself and others. 


ShellyQualtieri & Associates is dedicated to promoting the destigmatization of mental health. To aid you on your journey, we've provided some inspiring prompts to get you started. These questions are meant to get you and your friends, classmates, or colleagues openly talking about mental health so that we can have the language to help each other through hard times.


Here are some prompts to help you talk about mental health openly in a school or office setting:


  1. How have you been feeling lately, and what has been contributing to those emotions?
  2. Can we just take a moment to talk about how I'm feeling and how we can address it together?
  3. Have you ever experienced burnout, and if so, how did you recognize it and cope with it?
  4. What coping mechanisms do you find helpful when dealing with stress or anxiety in school/work situations?
  5. Have you noticed any changes in your mental health since starting school/working at this office? If so, what steps can we take to support you better?
  6. How do you think our workplace/school environment could be more supportive of individuals struggling with mental health issues?
  7. Have you ever felt stigmatised or uncomfortable discussing your struggles with mental health at work/school? If so, why and how can we change that?
  8. Are there any policies or resources that would be helpful for promoting positive mental health practices among employees/students?
  9. What role do leaders/managers/teachers play in supporting the mental well-being of their team/students?
  10. How can we prioritise everyone's mental well-being as a community and create a culture where people feel comfortable seeking help when needed?




We can all work to remove obstacles that prevent people in need from receiving care. We can make a huge difference by educating ourselves on these issues, promoting open communication among peers, fighting for change at all societal levels, building welcoming environments where people feel safe, and, finally, setting an example.


Let's work to change the way people perceive seeking treatment for mental health issues so that it is seen as a sign of strength rather than weakness. Together, we can dismantle the barriers by speaking out, telling our stories, and encouraging those around us as they navigate their mental health journeys. Remember, we are all in this together.


If you’re looking for more support in breaking the stigma around mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out. If you’re in the Calgary area, or you're looking for support virtually, in person, or by phone, reach out for counselling today! Our team is here for you






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