Expelling the Stigma Against Mental Illness
Let’s talk about stigma, specifically the stigma against people living with mental health conditions and seeing a mental health professional. We may have come a long way from lobotomies and belief that women are unstable due to a “wandering womb” (i.e., the original meaning behind the word “hysteria”), but these unnecessary barriers to greater health and wellness are still with us today.
Consider physical health: when a person is sick with a sore throat, it’s typically acceptable to schedule an appointment with a physician or other medical provider. That provider will gather information, perhaps run a strep test or other labs, and a medical diagnosis and treatment is given.
This isn’t the case with mental health care. Symptoms are hidden. Discussions regarding depression and other disorders are often kept secret; almost as if discussing them and exposing them would make them worse.
Let’s look at how this impacts the care and wellness of our communities. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2016), suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000, and this number is rising.Suicidal thoughts and actions are often symptoms of very treatable mental health diagnoses and yet people are often unable or unwilling to seek services for fear of being perceived as “weak” or “crazy.” In addition, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America states General Anxiety Disorder affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, yet less than half are receiving treatment. According to a 2007 ADAA survey,
Social Anxiety Disorder affects 15 million adults, and 36% of people with Seasonal
Affective Disorder report experiencing symptoms for ten or more years before seeking help (https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/anxiety-disorders) . That means that people are suffering in silence for decades. The illness affects their lives, personally and professionally. Relationships are damaged, wages lost, lives are shortened, and the whole community is impacted by this.
Consider how much healthier and happier our communities would be if people felt comfortable reaching out for mental healthcare the way they did when they catch a virus or break a leg. Much like physical illness, a short course of therapy or biofeedback is often sufficient to alleviate pain and help the person get their life back on track. And consider if people added mental healthcare to their regular routine! Instead of managing the viruses and injuries that come along, it could be just a part of self-care, not unlike going to the gym or regular dental check ups. Can you imagine a world where people proactively take care of themselves, their relationships, and learn how to be happier, more content people? Pursuing and maintaining mental health is as important as pursuing and maintaining physical health – both need to be maintained to keep the body, mind and spirit in balance.
If you, or anyone you know, is looking for support, please call for help. We all need help sometimes.
We are available seven days a week, including weeknights and weekends. We treat people of all ages and backgrounds without judgment– just as physical ailments affect many who seek help, mental illness affects many as well, and it is all right to seek help! Call us anytime, and we will return your call within twenty-four hours. Take care of your whole being- both physical and mental.
There is no reason to suffer alone.
Call: 424-346-2745 or 661-210-3884