Limited awareness and misinformation reinforce and perpetuates the stigma around mental health disorders and avoidance of mental health treatment. The limited awareness and misinformation cause even further damage on a social justice and policy level- funding towards mental health initiatives is minimized.

While changing social policy on any level takes time, each of us can do our part to become a mental health advocate on both a micro and macro level. Every little action counts and leads to making a difference.

We’ve compiled a list of activities you can engage in to advocate for mental health and help erase stigma. These tips are not just for those with mental health disorders, but for everyone. Advocacy should not rest on the shoulders of those with mental health disorders, as fighting stigma around mental health and mental illnesses requires a concerted effort.

If you think of other helpful tips, let us know at

      • Increase your own understanding and awareness of mental health illness
        There are a number of websites like SAMHSA
        , NAMI, Mental Health America and others that have comprehensive information about mental health disorders, types of treatment and the importance of mental wellness. The more aware you are, the more you can help dispel stereotypes.

      • Pay attention to the words you use around mental health and illness and then modify your language
        Language is powerful-if it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be certain words that are considered completely unacceptable to say. Language shapes our perception. Using mental illnesses as adjectives minimize the gravity of the disorder and the often very real and very difficult impact of having those disorders. Statements such as: “This weather is so bipolar,” “My OCD began coming out,” “My stories are all over the place because I have ADHD,” “I was depressed because I couldn’t buy those shoes,” and other similar phrases using mental health disorders in a joking manner trivialize the gravity and severity of mental health disorders. On the other hand, using a person’s mental health disorder to completely define them, such as: “She’s schizophrenic,” or  “He’s an addict,” takes away from their humanity. Check out this article of recommendations on changing our language when it comes to mental health disorders.

      • Work within your immediate circle
        Ask yourself, how can I help those around me become more aware of mental health disorders? How can I inform them of the stigma around mental health? There are multiple ways to approach this:

          • Helping them increase their understanding by sharing mental health websites.

          • Informing them of how their language around mental health perpetuates stigma. 

      • Share your story
        Sharing your story about having a mental illness or having a family member with a mental illness can be difficult but also incredibly powerful. Your courage to be vulnerable with others is one of the most powerful steps one can take towards breaking the stigma. Even sharing your story with your immediate circle is an incredible move towards increasing awareness.

      • Advocate for yourself
        If you have a mental health disorder, advocate for yourself when and wherever you can. If your meds are not working, make sure you let your provider know. If you feel that you are misdiagnosed, let them know. It is your right to ask for clarification about the diagnosis, to request more information about the meds you are taking and the approach your mental health therapist is taking when working with you.

      • Promoting mental wellness events
        Can you coordinate with your mosque, local community center or youth groups on holding a mental health and wellness event? You can even hold one in your library. The event doesn’t have to be grand- it can simply be a small workshop where you can have a local Muslim therapist talk about self-care, or mental wellness, or stigma around mental wellness, or any topic you think your community would like to learn more about.

      • Getting local leaders trained in Mental Health First Aid
        Many Muslim youth leaders, community leaders and members, and Imams at mosques would become even more effective in their role if they got certified in Mental Health First Aid. There are local Muslim therapists who may be a Mental Health First Aid certification trainer who can hold the training at the local community center. Other Muslim organizations that offer Mental Health First Aid certification include Muslim Wellness Foundation and Muslim Thrive.

      • Join your local NAMI group or start your own
        You can help start groups based on curriculum and structure followed by NAMI, Millati Islami (the Muslim version of the Alcohol Anonymous 12 step group), Alanon (support group for families of individuals with an addiction to alcohol), and other mental health initiatives.

      • Volunteer
        You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder to volunteer. Anyone can volunteer with their local NAMI chapter to help run events or inform their friends, family members, and community members. You can also volunteer to help with wellness fairs and ensure that a booth for mental health is included. Mental health providers can volunteer by offering to hold free workshops on mental health awareness.

      • Get involved with legislative advocacy
        We need to see greater change on a policy level.

      • You can join multiple groups
        (for example NAMI and their local chapter in your state) to find out more about how you can take your advocacy to lead to policy change. It can be as simple as getting a group of parents to lobby your city’s Board of Education to include more mental health therapists for their students and continue with lobbying your mayor. You can also attend legislative advocacy meetings held by your local chapter of NAMI to find out more about how you can get involved in legislative advocacy.

      • The Treatment Advocacy Center
        is an  excellent website with resources, research articles and more information to keep everyone aware of advocacy efforts related to mental health. The goal of the center is “eliminating barriers to treatment of mental illnesses.” You can read up on their research, advocacy efforts and learn more about how to become involved.