The Stigma of Getting Help
If we break a bone, we go to a doctor to get a cast. If our car breaks down, we go to a mechanic for help. If we don’t understand a math problem in class, we raise our hand for teacher support. If we don’t understand a technological feature on our computer, phone, or TV, we call a customer service rep for clarification. It seems we are conditioned to ask for help, so why is it that when we need help fighting a mental health disorder or an addiction, we shy away from reaching out? Why is there a stigma surrounding mental health and wellness?
For centuries, those with mental health issues were either cast out of society, simply deemed crazy, or told to “suck it up.” It seems upon our evolutionary path, there has been no room for the psyche because the physicality of a mental health disorder can’t be seen. We can see the effects of many disorders, but there isn’t a way to look at a brain and label depression, anxiety, or addiction. Yes, brain scans can us show patterns or damaged areas, but there are no objective tests that clearly illuminate mental health in the same way you can see a broken bone. But just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Creating a Fear of Treatment
We don’t fear going to the mechanic or calling a customer service help line. We may become apprehensive when getting news from a doctor, but we know we are doing the right thing by getting the blood test or opting for a biopsy. It seems the stigma surrounding mental health issues has created a fear regarding treatment. Do these statements sound familiar? “What will people think of me?” “I’m not like them.” “Only severely depressed people need help.” “I’m not crazy; I’m just stressed out.” “I don’t have a problem.”
Because of the stigma surrounding therapy and rehab, many attempt to rationalize their behaviors and thoughts because getting help doesn’t feel accessible. And if the people in our families, friend groups, and communities don’t believe in mental health issues, or are suffering from addictions themselves, it can feel impossible to move beyond our fears and seek treatment.
Take Haley, for example. Ever since she was a kid, she’s considered herself depressed, but it seems she says this word without focusing on the consequences. She drinks a few nights a week and smokes a lot of weed to “balance her out.” She thinks therapy is a good idea for other people but not for her. But the more she isolates herself and masks her depression with substance, the deeper that depression will spread into her mind and heart. So why won’t Haley make the call? She says it’s, “not a thing we do in my family.”
To break the generational stigma, all Haley has to do is call. It sounds difficult, but she is one phone call away from getting the help she needs and deserves. She admits she is miserable, so what’s stopping her?
The Mental Health Movement
There is no need to fear help, especially when it comes to mental health. Often, the disorders trick us and make us believe others aren’t living these truths. But look at people like Kristen Bell, Selena Gomez, Jay-Z, and Michael Phelps. They are using their platforms to show the world that therapy is an important tool. Now, look at the other side of it. People like Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, Avicii, and myriad other stars that have committed suicide and overdosed because they were struggling with addiction and mental health issues.
We’ve seen celebrities go to rehab, take time away from their tours for mental health reasons, and openly admit to the beauty of therapy. We’ve seen the devastating reality of those who don’t get help, so why aren’t we all running to a therapist? Why not reach out to a professional and seek the help we need without stigma instead of being another statistic of mental health tragedy? It’s time to rewrite this narrative, and it starts with every person who needs help, just like yourself, making the call when they know it’s time.
At the end of the day, we know when something is wrong inside of us, and we know when we are hurting. It could be the need to drink to mask old traumas. It could be the need to cut to release emotional hurt. It could even be the need to sleep all day because our depression is overpowering. Doesn’t it seem silly to continue to sit in that space when help is just a phone call away?
Your health and wellness matter, and just because others can’t see your pain, don’t understand it, or don’t believe it’s real doesn’t mean you need to suffer in silence. If you or an adolescent you know is suffering from a mental health issue related to addiction, call Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center at (662) 478-9463. Our trained mental health professionals are here to support you by validating your experiences. Don’t wait any longer. It’s time to get the help you deserve.