Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness
One of the biggest barriers to people seeking attention for symptoms of mental illness is the stigma associated with mental illness. Feelings of shame magnify the suffering people are already experiencing when they deal with mental health issues and isolation prolongs that suffering.
But according to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults experiences symptoms of a mental health illness every year. It’s as prevalent as the flu.
We don’t treat the flu as a personal failing. It’s not stigmatized. We see it as something we can treat as a community in a two-fold way: we do what we can to prevent getting the flu and we seek early treatment when symptoms start.
Let’s think about what we can do this week to be just as proactive about our mental wellness and to encourage those around us to do the same (see NAMI’s website for ideas). And let’s keep normalizing the truth. Despite everyone’s best efforts mental health illness will happen, but is treatable.
If you are someone who has benefitted from mental health support, I encourage you to be open about that. No need to give details. Just another way to normalize the truth.
We hear a lot about “herd immunity” with regard to physical health these days. What if enough people recognized that mental health illness is a treatable disease and not a personal failing? What if people had compassion and care for those who suffer from it as they do for those with a physical illness? Could we create a kind of “herd immunity” from mental health illness? A world where people felt held up and supported, not isolated and shamed? Perhaps we can never prevent mental health illness altogether, but we certainly can minimize the suffering and isolation that often accompany it.
For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week, visit https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Illness-Awareness-Week.
Tara Redepenning, LMHC, is a therapist and the clinical director at Looking Glass Counseling. She earned her master’s degree in mental health counseling and expressive arts therapy from Lesley University. She is experienced in working with adolescents and adults in school-based, crisis, and community settings. Tara brings a holistic approach to her work using psychodynamic theory, cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based strategies, and stress reduction techniques. Tara has expertise in working with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, adolescents, and college-age transitions. She also has a clinical interest in working with women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, including fostering and adoptive families.
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