Dissolving the Stigma of Mental Health Treatment

Stamp Out Stigma has marked the month of October 2018 as an eventful one for mental health awareness. This October’s mental health observances include the following:

  • National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month
  • Health Literacy Month
  • ADHD Awareness Month
  • Bullying Prevention Month
  • Mental Illness Awareness Week
  • OCD Awareness Week
  • National Health Education Week
  • National Depression Screening Day
  • World Mental Health Day

But despite these remarkable efforts to combat the discrimination and stigmatization attributed to mental illness, many people are still afraid of seeking treatment and support for their symptoms. These individuals are often worried about how others might perceive them for having to deal with mental health concerns. This blog offers some insight on what it means to receive mental health treatment. If you or someone you know may be in need of professional help, but are too afraid to reach out, consider these tips to curtail some misconceptions resulting from stigma.

  • It is important to acknowledge that certain times are more difficult than others, and some things can feel worse than usual. Seeking extra support during these difficult times does not equate to vulnerability or failure. Rather, it is simply a testament of human nature and an indicator of the resilience of our spirits. A good idea is to surround yourself with a support system when you are trying to overcome an emotional hurdle. This support system does not just have to be friends and family; they can be mental health professionals or your doctor. It is perfectly alright to seek professional help.
  • Your state of mental health doesn’t have to be your whole identity. Mental illness is something that happens to you, not something you are. If you start defining yourself out from mental illness, things will only get worse.
  • So what if you lost your sense of self, hobbies, and all that used to define you? That means you have a clean slate to try new hobbies and do new things. Instead of focusing on who you used to be, focus on figuring out who you can become!
  • If something raises your quality of life a little, do it! No matter how unnecessary or silly it might seem. Everything that raises your quality if life is worth the investment.
  • We evolve as we age. You might romanticize who you were before you needed help, but we all evolve as we age. Nobody is in the same place at 15 and 20. Most of us don’t end up where we expect to end up as 15 year olds. Not even neurotypicals.
  • Don’t kid yourself into thinking there’s only one way to have a good life. You can have a good life even if you can’t take what is seen as the “standard route,” though there is no such thing.
  • Celebrate little victories. The success criteria for some of us, for many years, might be to be able to get out of bed and brush our teeth. It’s never worth it to compare yourself to other people. If gaining the energy to brush your teeth is a struggle for you, it’s worth being proud of when you do it.
  • You can retrain your brain. Cognitive tests paint a picture of where you are right now. Not where you’ll be in the future.
  • Many of us need to restructure the way we perceive recovery. Recovery isn’t meant to be linear or straightforward, nor is it unidimensional. Instead, it is a long process full of hurdles. Recovery can feel like two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes, it’s two steps forward and three steps back. In other words, you may not always feel as if you’re moving forward in your process of recovery. But persistence is key. With time, recovery will feel increasingly achievable and less like a spiral.
  • Just because you encounter a stumbling block in your journey of recovery, does not mean you have failed. Recovery isn’t black or white, just like mental health problems are not simply absent or present. Rather, they are both continuums. Perceiving recovery as a “yes” or “no” type of matter nullifies all the progress and success you’ve achieved until the obstacle you’re currently facing. You do not simply return to your starting point, and neither do you lose anything. It is vital that we reframe our view on recovery to focus on dealing with the experience of that specific moment, instead of invalidating all the prior progress.
  • Forgive yourself. For being who you wanted to be rather than who you needed to be. For past behaviors leading to negative spirals. For the survival patterns and traits you picked up from your hardest times. For giving away your power to others. For not being your true self. Most importantly, forgive yourself for not knowing any better.
  • Don’t let the stigma, statistics, and negative stories get you down. You’re not a lost cause.

Please take this awareness month to understand that seeking help for your mental illness is one of the most courageous and beneficial things you can do your yourself. We encourage you to seek help both professionally and through your friends and family. The main goal isn’t to appease others based on their biases, but to get you to a point where you are content with your overall life and able to function to the best of your abilities.

And we’re here to help.

By Tasfia Jahangir