“The first step in seeking help is understanding mental illness”
You may not have started therapy yet merely because the false attributions that surround it. In other words, the stigma around mental health and mental illness that have long been present, can affect our impressions towards it. Hence, the first point in seeking help through therapy is trying to understand mental health.
What is mental illness?
Mental illnesses are health conditions or disorders that affect or change our thinking, mood, and behavior. Mental illnesses include a wide range of conditions, varying from:
- Mood disorders
- Personality disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Eating disorders
- Psychotic disorders
- Substance abuse disorders
- Trauma-related disorders
“Mental illness is real. Suffering is real.” The key in understanding mental illness is knowing that the change in your emotions, thinking patterns, and behavior that you are experiencing is persistent, consistent, affecting aspects of your life, affects your functioning, seems long-lasting, and requires a diagnosis from a professional.
What is stigma?
Stigma is explained as negative attitudes that stem from a discrimination or stereotype made on specific characteristics. In terms of mental health, there are three scopes that can explain why stigma is a main reason for why people haven’t sought out help yet. Three types of stigmas surrounding mental health
1. Public stigma
This type of stigma involves the public negative or discriminatory attitudes that other people have about mental illness. For example, claiming that people with mental illness are dangerous, crazy, incompetent, unpredictable, and fake is considered a public stigma or stereotype. What happens next? Employers may not hire people with mental illness, health care systems may neglect their care, and hence, all the discrimination begins.
This type of stigma refers to the negative attitudes that people with mental illness have about their own condition. For example, thinking that “I am dangerous, incompetent, and crazy”. What can this lead to? these negative internalized thoughts can lead to lowered self-esteem and feelings of giving up, thinking you’re not worth it, thinking that what you have is not real.
3. Institutional stigma
This type of stigma is more systematic, involving government and organization policies that intentionally or unintentionally limit opportunities for people with mental illness. For example, jobs that don’t cover mental health insurance because it’s embedded in the law and other institutions to apply so. What happens then? A stigma is formed regarding how unimportant mental illness is because it’s not even being covered by insurance.
Why haven’t you started therapy?
We’ve talked about mental illness. We’ve talked about the stigma around it. It’s time to talk about how we can sometimes find ourselves engaging in actions that degrade mental illnesses, making it easier to stigmatize, leading to avoiding seeking help all together. We might catch ourselves using labels surrounding mental illness in our daily conversations that creates misconceptions:
“Your room is so organized, you’re so OCD”
“I am so depressed, there’s nothing to eat”
“Are you an addict? That’s your third drink”
“You were just happy a few seconds ago and now you’re crying? That’s so bipolar”
“That’s so traumatizing, I can’t watch that scary movie again”
“Stop moving around a lot, do you have ADHD or what”
“You just need to man up, pray, stop slacking, and everything will be okay”
“What you have is normal, everybody feels the same way”
“Why do you want to go to therapy? You aren’t crazy”
And as much as it’s difficult to always have to watch out for the things we say, especially around sensitive topics, it’s very crucial. Decreasing the false statements we use around mental illnesses, can help people begin to take it seriously by understand how suffering is real, how mental-health professionals are here for you, and most importantly, how seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of.
A Word from O7therapy
Stigma around mental health is still present to this day. However, by talking about it and working towards decreasing it, it has indeed improved since back then. The more we have healthy, informative, correct conversations about mental illness, the more we can encourage people to seek help and start therapy one step at a time.