Is Men­tal Health Stigma Get­ting In The Way Of Your Life?

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - COMMUNITY - Car­rie Nick­les Colum­nist

Are you stand­ing in your own way of get­ting the help that you want and need to feel bet­ter and be the best you can be? We of­ten want to blame oth­ers for things. How­ever, the choice to not take ac­tion and get help may not be the fault of any­one but you.

Ev­ery day we tell each other: “tell some­one” and “ask for help.” When our chil­dren have is­sues at school or with friends we ask, “did you tell any­one?” But do we re­ally mean it? Do we as a so­ci­ety re­ally want to get bet­ter? If you be­lieve that we as a com­mu­nity, or on a larger scale, as a so­ci­ety truly want to get bet­ter then why is there still a stigma to­wards men­tal health and men­tal health ser­vices?

There are at­ti­tudes and as­sump­tions made about men­tal ill­ness and go­ing to ther­apy. There are both so­cial stig­mas and as­sump­tions as well as per­ceived or per­sonal stig­mas and as­sump­tions made about men­tal health, both of which are hin­der­ing peo­ple’s abil­ity to be­come bet­ter and health­ier. The so­cial stig­mas are of­ten com­ing from peo­ple who truly have no idea what ther­apy and men­tal health are re­ally about. We all know that ig­no­rance can of­ten lead to dis­crim­i­na­tion and fear, which is sad. Peo­ple with men­tal health is­sues are not all “crazy” or “danger­ous.” This is a mis­per­cep­tion and as­sump­tion that has been fu­eled by neg­a­tive me­dia and peo­ple who are look­ing for some­one or some­thing to blame.

Per­sonal stig­mas are those that peo­ple feel about them­selves which are usu­ally laced with shame, self de­feat and per­sonal fear. Of­ten a per­sonal stigma is the one that you hear in your own voice in which the mes­sage that ask­ing for help or let­ting some­one help is a sign of weak­ness. Or many other things that you are po­ten­tially telling your­self about men­tal health ser­vices. (FYI not ev­ery­one in ther­apy is on med­i­ca­tion, to negate that mes­sage you are telling your­self too.)

The truth is that it of­ten takes courage and brav­ery to ad­mit that there is a prob­lem. It takes courage to be­gin con­fronting the is­sue and the pain the suf­fer­ing and to make changes. The peo­ple that walk into my of­fice are of­ten the strong­est peo­ple I could meet, be­cause they are ad­mit­ting there is an is­sue and they want to make a change in their life. This is true with cou­ples who want to im­prove their re­la­tion­ships, ad­dicts who want to be sober and chil­dren who want to stop feel­ing sad. So are you get­ting in your own way? Be Brave.

CAR­RIE NICK­LES, LPC, IS A FOR­MER COUN­SELOR WITH OZARK GUID­ANCE AND IS SEE­ING PA­TIENTS TUES­DAYS AND THURS­DAYS AT PRAIRIE GROVE HEALTH AND WELL­NESS CEN­TER.

“The peo­ple that walk into my of­fice are of­ten the strong­est peo­ple I could meet, be­cause they are ad­mit­ting there is an is­sue and they want to make a change in their life.”

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