Mental Health Stigma

Few people realize how differently you’re treated once anyone learns that you’ve been in a mental hospital or had any other sort of psychiatric care beyond talk therapy or a short course of antidepressants. If you think, “Oh, I’d never do that. I know mental health treatment isn’t so strange.” look a little deeper. Therapy is one thing, but you back off a little when you learn that an acquaintance has been in a psych ward, don’t you? Almost like there’s a chance of contagion?

You would be stunned to learn how many people you see and interact with daily have, at some time, had some psychiatric treatment. In most cases, you’ll never know unless they tell you because they are perfectly functional, productive adults.

The stigma regarding mental health will remain until we bring the topic out of the closet. It’s the people who refuse to seek help when they need it who hurt themselves or even go off the deep end and harm others.

Getting help for mental health problems is no different from taking insulin if you have diabetes or getting your broken arm set so it’ll heal properly. Most people hide their psychiatric histories, unlike, say, wearing glasses or contacts. Needing your vision or your body’s chemistry corrected isn’t a moral issue but a fact of life. So is seeking help for depression or similar problems. Please get help if you need it!

There was a time when I resisted being honest about depression. I didn’t even want to be open enough with my therapist to get the help I needed. I fought so much that I made a very serious suicide attempt.

If you’ve been treated for any mental illness, please talk about it when appropriate. Be open about it. Treat it just as you would treat having survived cancer or a broken bone or anything else. Don’t let anyone shame you, and don’t be silent. You may be able to help someone else through your openness.

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