“The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four people is suffering from a mental illness. Look at your 3 best friends. If they’re ok, then it’s you.” – Rita Mae Brown
Mental health is as important as physical health. At some point in everyone’s life, they’ve suffered from stress, anxiety, depression, and possibly even addiction. These issues affect every aspect of their life – from the way they feel, to the way they act – and anyone suffering from any of these issues has the desire to overcome them.
Yet for some reason, despite this knowledge, many people have stigmas when it comes to the idea of dealing with a mental health disorder. Many people believe that those having a mental health disorder implies there is something wrong with you, and numbers show that only 30% of those with mental health disorders seek out treatment.
Why is There a Mental Health Stigma?
Most likely the stigma is due to the extremes of the mental health disorder spectrum. Issues like true psychosis and schizophrenia are relatively rare, but they tend to be related to the way that people view mental health – believing that to have a mental health disorder, one must be a “psycho.”
There’s an evolutionary reason that this may occur. In history, before the advent of psychological diagnoses, the only noticeable types of mental health disorders likely were the extremes, and most likely the extremes were social outcasts. It’s human nature to stereotype in the interests of creating quick associations, and so many people notice the extremes more often (even from youth), create the association that those with mental health problems must fall under those extremes, and then want to avoid being part of that association.
Ignoring the Mental Health Stigma and Seeking Help
It’s important for those that feel like they’re struggling with their own mental health to seek help. This stigma is very real, and it’s hard for people to simply “forget it,” but there are many reasons to overcome this stigma in an effort to live a better life. These include:
- Happiness is Happiness – If you feel like you’re suffering from some type of issue and you need someone to talk to, then the end result is and should be your goal. How you become happy isn’t as important as being happy, so if you need treatment to get there, it’s worth attempting.
- Empirically Validated – Mental health treatments have also been researched thoroughly – at least many of them have. They are known to be effective, and in many ways they’re as powerful as medicine even without medicine. Since it’s proven to work, the end result should be your focus.
- Curable – Similarly, most mental health issues can be cured or highly managed. You would go to the doctor if you had pneumonia, so it stands to reason that going to the doctor to overcome your lasting sadness would make sense as well.
- Stress Ill Health – Studies have now shown that stress is one of the most damaging issues that can occur to your health. Just as there is a mental health stigma, so too is there a cancer stigma. Yet studies have shown that stress can lead to greater risk of cancers. It stands to reason that avoiding one stigma in favor of a more dangerous condition with its own stigma is nonsensical.
- No Diagnosis Necessary – In addition, it’s not about the diagnosis. Caffeine withdrawal will soon be considered a valid mental health disorder, and no one has a coffee stigma. Many people also seek out treatment for low levels of anxiety and depression that aren’t necessarily considered disorders, but still affects their quality of life. The diagnosis is not as important as the results, and science has proven time and time again that results are possible.
There is a stigma when it comes to mental health disorders. But considering the known alternative – not seeking help and experiencing a lower quality of life – overlooking that stigma in favor of your own long term happiness is simply the logical decision, and congratulating others that are willing to go get help for themselves will hopefully reduce the future of this stigma.
Ryan Rivera advocates for greater acceptance of mental health issues. He created a website about stress and anxiety available at www.calmclinic.com.