Ditching Mental Health Stigma to Tap into Your "Best Self"
In the recent past, I have had several female friends come and talk to me about their mental health concerns and the challenges they face when sharing these issues with their loved ones—be it a partner, sibling or parent.
When I ask, “What is keeping you from seeking treatment such as therapy or medication?” I frequently get the response that either their significant other is not accepting of medication for mental health concerns, or that they believe that therapy is a hoax and if they just “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps” everything would be just fine.
Now, I know this is just a load of B.S., however—I, too, have experienced this response and the shame that comes with it. Having a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety is damaging enough to one’s self-confidence, but throw the criticism of a loved one into the mix? That’s enough to send a girl running for the hills!
So let’s unpack this stigma and see what’s really behind it.
According to Psychology Today: “Mental health stigma can be divided into two distinct types: 1. Social stigma is characterized by prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behavior directed towards individuals with mental health problems as a result of the psychiatric label they have been given. 2. In contrast, perceived stigma or self-stigma, is the internalizing by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination (Link, Cullen, Struening & Shrout, 1989), and perceived stigma can significantly affect feelings of shame and lead to poorer treatment outcomes (Perlick, Rosenheck, Clarkin, Sirey et al., 2001).”
In simpler terms: social stigma is judgments about mental health from others and self-stigma is the itty-bitty shi**y committee we hear in our heads about our own mental health.
Neither is helpful in getting us healthy and happy.
Now, I bought into the idea of “pull yourself up” for quite a while. Guess what? It landed me in therapy. Yup—not having a partner who supported my need for both physical and emotional health was more damaging (image that!) than having someone in my life that understood being able to be my “best self” also meant working on finding my inner voice—no matter what it took to tap into that.
So, if these words ring true for you, I encourage you to take a step back and look real hard into your own mental health journey. Be your own best-friend and know that having a mental health concern does not make you “less than” and, in fact, makes you “human”. On that I say, “Amen, sista!”
For more information about mental health & stigma, click here.
To a Happy & Healthy you,
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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]