Storytelling for Mental Health

use storytelling to remove mental illness stigma

It’s perplexing to me.

In a sector providing so much care and support there is still such stigma around talking about mental illness. One of the best tools I know to help with this is to use storytelling to remove mental illness stigma.

When it becomes comfortable to share our own stories and hear others’ stories without judgment — only then will we begin to treat mental illness with the attention and respect it deserves.

Through various health adventures in our family and with colleagues and friends, nearly everyone has a mental health or illness story. Myself included.

What’s to be done about mental illness stigma?

Fight mental illness stigma

• Listen carefully.

• Ask questions, if appropriate.

• Remember, everyone has “stuff” going on.

• And for goodness’ sakes, take time to find out how the person is feeling before judging the behavior.

• My mantra this year: “listen to learn and be kind.” I don’t always do it well. But I’m working on it.

Remember: the person is not the behavior. The behavior is a symptom of something they are feeling.

Whether it’s with colleagues, board members, friends, the dry cleaner — we mostly rush through our day without learning someone’s story. We label people as “annoying, difficult, rude, demanding” without understanding why their behavior was uncomfortable for us.

Repeatedly, when I’ve asked the question, how are you “really” doing? the other person visibly softens. Sometimes they even feel safe enough to share more. It’s then I get a glimpse of their burden and pain.

And yet, we still may not talk about mental health. It’s still too uncomfortable to reveal.

Use storytelling to battle Mental Illness Stigma

This Huffington Post article Mental Illness: The Stigma of Silence written 10 years ago by Glenn Close, is thought-provoking and eye-opening.

Glenn says, “The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by the year 2020 mental illness will be the second leading cause of death and disability.”

As I continue to take my medication to keep my own depression under control — I invite you to join me in my quest to “listen to learn and be kind.”


Learn how to craft emotionally connecting and honoring stories with the “workshop in a box”: Complete Storytelling System. Nine video modules and more than 100 pages of worksheets and resources to support you and your team.

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