The pandemic has elevated the need for mental health therapy for millions of people. People feel isolated as they’re thrown from their normal routine into isolation, yet many aren’t seeking treatment. The problem is that there is often a negative stigma on mental health therapy.
Almost half of the people in America surveyed last year stated they are fighting their own battles with mental health issues. Millions aren’t seeking therapy because there are certain negative stigma labels put on therapy by society that leave many unable to seek help move forward in their lives.
Mental Health Stigmas
Many people refuse to normalize therapy because of the negative societal stigmas. They may feel that their loved ones just don’t understand them, yet they feel they have nowhere to turn. It’s often this lack of understanding regarding mental health issues that leads to stigmas on therapy. People are fearful of therapy because of misleading media representations. Many people understand there are medical issues that involve mental health, but they still hold a negative view.
Types of Stigma
- Public Stigma – This is the stigma that the public has about mental illness. This also includes negative attitudes towards it.
- Self-Stigma – This is the feeling an individual has about their mental illness. They are shameful and negative towards their mental health.
- Institutional Stigma – This is more about the government and other organizations limiting the opportunities for people that have a mental illness. This might mean limiting research or funding for mental health services.
The Media’s Role in A Negative Stigma
Although we may not even be aware of it, many of us have preconceived notions about mental health due to media influences. When there is an act of violence, the media often quickly jumps to label the perpetrator as “crazy.” This person may actually have a mental illness, but they are often slapped with a derogatory term before anyone knows anything about them. Someone watching the news as this event unfolds only hears the negative terms or connotations. In turn, they may think if they seek mental health help, they will be labeled as “crazy.” They feel as if the media has roped them into the same realm as criminals.
Television and Movie Portrayals of Mental Health Issues
There are many television and movies that don’t portray mental health in a positive light either. Movies like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Girl, Interrupted,” and “Joker” scares many people into thinking they are just like the characters. It’s crucial that media like this destigmatize therapy. In reality, most people with mental illness are nothing like the intense characters in these movies. Many people just need a little boost and a little help; someone to talk to. They aren’t going to go off the rails like the Joker.
Effects of Negative Stigma on Mental Health
One of the biggest problems with the stigma of mental health therapy is lack of opportunity. Many people that are suffering from mental health issues are held back in their professional and personal lives. Sometimes health insurance companies refuse to cover the costs of mental health help, making it virtually impossible for some to seek help. These things lead to the person suffering on their own. They cannot get the treatment they need to live a normal life. They often feel left out or unsuccessful because they cannot treat themselves.
Many times, cultural beliefs steer people away from seeking mental health help. For some in certain cultures, they will go to other family members or their primary doctor for their symptoms regarding mental health. Instead of speaking with mental health professionals, they believe others can help them. They often fear their own cultures will not accept them.
Some members of black families steer away from mental health professionals because many in their community have experienced mistreatment and racism from health providers throughout the years. They try to handle these issues independently.
Many Middle Easterners and Asian Americans believe, in their culture, that if they seek mental health help, it will bring shame to their families. They believe this will dishonor the heads of the family. Many Asian Americans are pressured by their families to have a public persona of success. Mental health help doesn’t fit into this public persona. All of these beliefs are valid for these cultures, but the negative views must be changed for the benefit of the person. If they need a higher level of help, it’s important they reach out beyond their own circle.
How to Cope with Mental Health Issues
Understand You Aren’t Crazy
Millions of people go to therapy every day. It doesn’t matter if you need help with a mental illness or you need to talk through issues, you aren’t “crazy” if you go to a therapist. You might joke around that you’re losing your mind or you are on your way to the loony bin. It’s no joking matter. You are like millions of other people that need a little help. You should normalize therapy by setting aside the negative stereotypes. The things you see in movies aren’t usually real life. A therapist understands you aren’t losing your mind and they will never treat you like you are.
Put Yourself First
You must first confront your own stigmas around counseling before you can change the rest of the world. You must see yourself in a positive light as you get ready to open up to other people. You don’t need to shout it from the mountaintops, but you can share your goals of therapy with your loved ones. If you hide it, you’re letting the stigma lead the way. Be open about the reasons you need to go to therapy. You’ll be surprised at the level of support around you. If you seem ashamed, your loved ones might start to believe in the stigmas as well. Stay on top of these thoughts. Help others see the light you’ve seen, and help them understand how therapy is helping you.
Don’t Set A Timeline
It’s important to go at your own pace when seeking mental health help. It’s tempting to wonder when you will ever be done with the process. In reality, there is no specific time it takes to heal yourself. Therapy is about working towards your goals and changing your life one step at a time. It isn’t about “fixing” anything. Don’t let the stigma of a certain timeline stop you from getting the help you need.
You wouldn’t lie to people when you are going to a primary care doctors’ appointment, so it’s important to be honest in mental health appointments. It’s important not to hide these appointments just because you feel there is a negative stigma. You can work to change that stigma by being open and honest about your appointments. You don’t have to share with the world everything you talked about in the appointment, but you can be open about the fact you are seeking mental healthcare. This helps change the negative stigma as people realize that not everyone is perfect.
Know Everyone Is Not the Same
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle. Mental health help is all about reflection and exploring your own thoughts. Everyone’s battle and their experience is different, so don’t ever compare yourself with someone else’s mental health journey. Your approach to therapy may be totally different than someone else’s approach to their own therapy. Each counseling journey is personalized for that specific person’s needs.
Mental Illness Is Not Your Definition
Don’t ever let your mental health issues define who you are as a person. Rather than say you are bipolar, for example, simply say you suffer from a bipolar disorder. You choose what defines you in life. Mental health issues may be a part of the person you are, but you are so much more than just the mental health diagnosis. Don’t let it rule your life. Don’t let it be your title in life. You might not be able to choose the issues, but you can choose which issues define you.
Find the Light
As you search for meaning in your mental health issues, find the light around you. Realize that you are blessed to have the ability to fight these issues. The positive outlook should outweigh the negative fears you have about mental health help. Know you are going to feel better after you get treatment. Know you are going to find the light in all things as you go through this journey. This lowers the stigma and doesn’t give it any power.
Lean On Your Own Opinions
Listening to other people’s opinions is often an obstacle for people that need mental health help. It’s crucial that you don’t let other people keep you from seeking therapy. Do your own research. Make your own opinions. Reach out to people you trust that want the best for your mental health. You can join a support group that helps you share your issues with other people. Don’t let anyone define you by your mental health issues. If you only listen to the negative opinions of others, you will find yourself in isolation and fear.
Know You Aren’t Alone
One of the most important ways to get rid of the negative stigma of seeking mental health help is to understand that you are not alone. Many people are scared to discuss their issues. They fear everyone else is leading a “perfect” life. They isolate themselves because they believe they’re the only one experiencing these issues. This is not true at all. There are millions of people that need mental health help in the world. It’s common and totally normal to seek help. You are not alone in your struggles. Once you start talking about it, you’ll see other people raise their hands to say they need help as well. The American Counseling Association stated that over 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety. They state that over 20 percent of the population fights different mental disorders. This means you are not alone at all.
Challenge the Media
Don’t let the media get away with stigmatizing mental health. They are a public outlet so it’s important they work with the audience to destigmatize therapy. If you watch a television show that depicts mental illness in a negative way, reach out to them. If someone on your social media writes derogatory comments about it, make a statement yourself. You can make a difference by reaching out to explain to them their impact on people reading and watching these stories.
Mental Health Is Just as Important as Physical Help
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Many people are scared to address their mental health concerns because they cannot be seen. If you are feeling physically ill, you go to a physician to find the cause. You seek medication to feel better. If you are dealing with a mental health challenge, it’s important to reach out to a mental health professional. Many people put mental health on the back-burner because they don’t understand how to heal it. Just like your physical health, mental health needs to be addressed and treated.
It’s time to get rid of the negative stigmas that partner with mental health help. It’s totally normal to get help when you need it most. You need to take care of your mind and body by all means possible. Believing in mental health stigmas will only hold you back from your own true happiness.
Huntsville Professional Counseling