I recently came upon this article which talks about the stigma of having a mental illness. Just the words mental illness bring up thoughts, often negative and most often about cases of extreme mental illness. It allows people to think that if they are not the extreme that they do not have a mental illness. I see the same with clients with substance abuse issues, if I am not homeless, unemployed, and out of money I must be okay. If I am okay, than I do not have to do anything to change.
Why are people so reluctant to acknowledge their mental health problems? Yesterday I read that one in five Americans takes a psychiatric medication. That is a very high number. Yet how many of your friend do you know take a medication? How many would you tell if you were taking a medication? The most common users are woman and woman tend to communicate more openly with their friends, but not about these struggles.
So why won’t people talk about it? Stigma. People feel that taking medication means that you are crazy, and/or weak, because you should be able to deal with this on your own. Some people will judge you for having a mental illness and taking medication as some people will judge you for how you raise your children, do your job, drive etc. That doesn’t mean it isn’t okay to talk about it.
With the high level of prescriptions you would think there would be a correlating increase in therapy visits. I am not sure that is the case. If people can just take a pill why go talk to someone and learn about the underlying causes, or how to cope, or simply to just get some support. People tell me all the time that they feel whiny talking about themselves. That is what this society has come to, if we talk in any sort of authentic way about our problems we are whiny?
I think one of the big problems with our society and how we relate to each other is this move towards being fake. We are stuck pretending all the time. We pretend to be happy, we pretend to know what we are doing, we pretend that our lives are prefect, this takes an emotional toll. One of the causes of depression and anxiety is unexpressed feelings. If we are pretending all the time we have no idea what our feelings even are, much less have the energy to deal with them. This society right now is full of fear and people fear if they are less than perfect they will be left behind.
I would encourage you that if you suffer from a mental health issue to tell people. Not everyone but a few people you trust. If you do not suffer from a mental health issue I encourage you to try and be open minded about those who do suffer. Allow yourself to support a friend in need. Because you never know when you will be the person who has the need.
I encourage you to leave comments. You may also want to see my prior post on the stigma of anti-depressants.