“You Need Therapy”
These words sound like an abuse or infringement of boundaries when used in the context of mental health. However, we don’t feel the same way when it’s recommended with regards to our physical health. In fact, we feel loved, cared and validated for our suffering or pain. Why is it so? Why does one have to fight not just the mental illness within but also the shame attached to it before even taking the first step of seeking help.
Many people, due to the fear of discrimination and stigma, choose to suffer alone in silence rather than to seek help. This worsens their condition and adds to their distress. As in physical ailment, chances of recovery are much higher when we reach out to a doctor for treatment at the start of the ailment rather than in a later stage.
I wonder when and how this so-called “stigma” started? Why have we made it impossible for a person to reach out for help. When did this community imposed stigma become self imposed stigma too?
Struggle Is Real And Beyond Words!
Let’s try to peep into the perceived world of a person with mental illness. He feels scared, embarrassed, ashamed to share his concerns. There could be many reasons to this. He may fear to be perceived as weak, not good enough for work and/or life or he may not want to burden the people around him with his own struggles. Adding to this misery, is his constant inner voice nagging non-stop.
Loved ones, on the other hand might feel confused about why the person is behaving in a certain way. With all good intentions, loved ones might continue to insist with toxic positivity (“just snap out of it!”, “you have so much to be thankful for” or “look at the positive side of life”) without having the faintest idea what the person is going through.
The job of therapists today, is not just restricted to the therapeutic intervention in the therapy room but also to help people overcome this shame (of being “weak” and “not able to manage their mind”) and fear. So the work begins much before the person takes the first step of seeking help.
Lots Of Work Is Being Done In This Domain.
Thanks to social media (yes! I can say that here, our voice can reach out to many) and the efforts of community builders which lead us to a wave of community awakening towards this cause. Many volunteers are taking up the role of mental health advocates. Youths are being guided and encouraged to take care of their mental health. Schools and workplaces have started giving high priority to the mental wellbeing of their beneficiaries which is a welcome change.
But There’s Still A Long Way To Go.
Knowledge about mental illness can be the first step. Knowing that mental illness is just like physical illness and that there are proper evidence based gold standard interventions available which make it possible that one doesn’t have to suffer and can recover.
Responsible use of language is another effective tool which can be used extensively to remove the stigma attached around seeking help for one’s own mental health. For instance, we don’t say “I am cancer” or “I am fever” but yet we say “I am depressed” or “I am anxious.” Let’s not put labels, either on ourselves or on others. Correct people around you who may be using language for mental health in a wrong way. Also, an individual is beyond labels. He may be struggling with something (which is just one aspect) and that doesn’t define him in totality.
Being proactive (preventive rather than reactive) in our approach towards mental wellness can also put us on the path of generating hope amongst the people who are struggling with mental health issues. This means taking charge and working on our mental health consciously rather than leaving it to the mercy of whatever comes our way. It’s worth remembering that toxic thoughts release toxic chemicals in the body and tonic thoughts release tonic chemicals in our body. Read good books, refrain from gossip and negative or critical self talk.
Hope is real and recovery is possible. Let’s join hands and work in whatever space we are to de-stigmatize mental health while normalizing the need for therapy.