Mental illness. Therapy. Medication. Depression, anxiety, bipolar. Suicide. Self-harm. Any of these words dropped in a conversation are sure to cause people to shift and squirm in their seats and cause some discomfort. But why? Why has there been a stigma surrounding these topics for so long in our country, especially now in the midst of a pandemic?
People have no qualms with going to the doctor for physical ailments. “I broke my leg.” Go to the doctor. “I’m really sick.” Go to the doctor. “I’m having back pains.” Go to the doctor. The same sentiment goes for medications as well. “I have a headache.” Take some ibuprofen. “My eyes itch and I can’t stop sneezing.” Take Claritin. “I can’t sleep.” Take some melatonin. When it comes to these physical ailments that have a cause that can be quickly traced back to, most people have no problem taking medication and seeking out medical attention, so why is there such an issue doing the same when it comes to our mental health?
Our mind is everything about us. We are the only person we are with 24/7, so why not make sure our minds are healthy as well? The goal for most people in life is to be comfortable and happy, and that all starts with you and your head.
Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all of the “it’s just in your head!”
“You’re thinking too much!”
“You just need to let it go!”
“You’re too sensitive, you need to toughen up!”
And while yes, technically some of those sentiments are true, they aren’t really helping anything or anyone and only pushes the stigma to grow even further.
Imagine if someone you loved came to you saying they were having problems with anxiety, and instead of saying, “Maybe you’re thinking too much, you should relax and let it go,” you opened up the table for discussion and tried to understand what they’re feeling and why. Or if someone came to you and told you they were having thoughts of suicide and self-harm, instead of saying, “It’s just in your head, you need to toughen up,” you helped them seek out the correct type of help that they needed.
I’m not saying therapy and medication is a magical cure or that it’s even for everybody, because everybody is different and handles things differently. But what I am saying is, coming from firsthand experience, once you overcome that stigma and reach out for help, things start to change for the better.
We as a society need to end the stigma. There is no shame in having a mental illness. There is no shame going to therapy. There is no shame in having to take medication. Once we start opening the lines of communication with each other, we can start understanding each other better, which is what we need the most right now.