As a society, often times when we think of mental health, we think only of the most severe diagnoses or of the most severe case we’ve ever seen. We think of the person who actively sees things or talks to herself. We think of the person who spends weeks in a depression only to come out of it briefly and be so hyped up that they don’t sleep for 3 days, until they crash into their depression again. We think of the person who has been to the hospital multiple times for attempting to take his own life. We never think of ourselves as people who may be experiencing some mental health challenges.
We think of ourselves as “high functioning,” able to hold down a job, able to keep up images and appearances. We never think of the anxiety we may experience about our jobs or about our relationships as a mental health matter. We never think of how overwhelmed we might feel trying to balance everything as a mental health matter. We think that we are normal and have no MAJOR issues. And to an extent, that is true. But to another extent, we all have some mental health challenges that need to be addressed at some point or another in our lives.
Think about it: the last time you went through a break up that ripped your heart out and made you think you do not want to ever date again and it impacted you so much that you had a hard time concentrating at work and your boss asked you what was different with you…or the time that you were studying to take an important exam that would either make or break your career and you felt shaky and on edge about everything, worrying that you might fail this huge exam and have to live at home with your parents forever…or the time that you learned your best friend was having an affair and you were up at night worrying about what would happen to her, her children, and her family, and you lost your appetite trying to figure out how you can help her.
Some of those might sound familiar, and yes, you may have experienced some of them yourself, or you may know someone who may have experienced something like this. But oh, no, heaven forbid that we call it a mental health concern, because only people who talk to themselves have mental health issues, right? WRONG!
Although it is true that there are a number of severe and persistent mental illnesses, it is also true that mental health lies on a spectrum. Just like health conditions all come in a variety of severities. Sometimes our symptoms are just the common cold and sometimes are symptoms are bronchitis or pneumonia. Sometimes we are able to manage our symptoms ourselves and sometimes we need help.
The point of the matter is: We have all at some time or another experienced some sort of situation that has led to a change in our mental and emotional wellbeing, when we have just not felt like ourselves. The goal of raising mental health awareness is to help reduce the stigma associated with it.
Nobody ever looks at you like you are an alien or abnormal when you tell them you are going to the doctor because you have a cold, so why should someone look at you like you’re an alien when you tell them that you are going to see a therapist because you are experiencing a hard time adjusting to your recent break up, or job change, or problem with a friend that you’re just having a hard time sorting out? Well…that is if you even decide to tell your friends that you are seeing a therapist…
Why should we keep it a secret? Why should we hide it? We see the medical doctor at least once a year, we see our gynecologist once a year, we see the dentist twice a year, we see a chiropractor when our back hurts and an acupuncturist when our stomach is upset, so why shouldn’t we say that we see a therapist too?
Imagine how liberating it would be if you were able to talk openly and freely with your friends and loved ones about the fact that you are seeing a therapist to help you overcome the current challenge you are facing right now. Rather than keeping it a secret, you could be free to tell people that you are getting help for your difficult situation right now. You don’t need to share with them the details, but you should at least feel like you can share with them that you are seeking help rather than having to hide it. What a difference that would make.
If we all do our part to help reduce the stigma associated with mental health, we can move toward a society that is open to people getting the help when they need it, rather than having to suffer in silence or tough it out. Can you imagine what a society of people who choose to focus on their mental and emotional wellbeing would look like? Give it a try, picture that society, and share in the comments below how you feel our society would be different if we could reduce the stigma and make the choice as a society to be healthy and well, in all aspects of our lives
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