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We Need to Get Rid of the Stigma Around Mental Health

It's not your fault for struggling.

Common Use
Source: Max Pixel: Common Use

While mental health has been a hot topic in the media recently, there is still a lot of stigma around the idea of struggling with a mental illness.

Many people struggle with feelings of shame when it comes to struggling with their mental health. This is perfectly understandable given the amount of stigma in society. However, would you feel shame around struggling with hypothyroidism or an autoimmune disease?

There are still pervasive myths about mental illness: that it simply reflects “choices,” that depression is just about “feeling sad,” that anxiety is just about worrying, and that eating disorders are “just about wanting to be thin” or a “diet gone too far.”

These myths could not be further from the truth.

No one would ever choose to struggle with suicidal thoughts. No one would want to feel unable to get out of bed or to lack the energy to even make a cup of coffee. No one would ask to struggle with intense anxiety and constant thoughts around food and their body. No one would say, “I want to struggle with binge eating where I feel completely possessed and eat until I feel physically uncomfortable. And then feel incredible guilt and shame after.”

Mental illnesses are not choices. The same way that physical illnesses are not choices.

Why is it that people often don’t feel shame about saying they are going to see a doctor for their physical health, but for some sharing that you see a psychiatrist or a therapist can feel stigmatizing?

Why is it that when someone is diagnosed with a serious physical health condition, often people bring food or call them to offer support. However, if someone has a child in the psychiatric unit, the response is generally not as supportive.

Why is it that insurance companies often will cover physical health conditions but deny or shorten coverage of life-saving eating disorder residential treatment stays?

There are many people who are informed about mental health and are happy to support those who are struggling. But ultimately, the amount of stigma in our society is still a very pervasive issue.

The same way that it's important to meet with a doctor to take care of your physical health needs. It is crucial to take care of your mental health: whether that involves setting boundaries with certain people, seeing a therapist, taking psychiatric medication, or doing activities that improve your mental health.

You Are Not a Burden

Additionally, many of my clients share with me that they struggle with feeling like because of their mental health challenges that they are “a burden” to their loved ones.

However, would you call yourself a burden to your family if you had a broken leg or an autoimmune disease?

You are not a burden. You deserve support, and the fact that you are struggling with a mental illness is not your fault.

Further, reaching out for help when you are struggling is not a sign of weakness, it's actually a sign of courage.

We don’t get to choose our brain makeup, and struggling with a mental illness can be incredibly tough. However, with access to treatment and support individuals can go on to lead productive and purpose-filled lives.

People struggling with mental illness are ultimately some of the most intelligent, resilient, brave, and compassionate people that I know.

More from Jennifer Rollin MSW, LCSW-C
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