Intellectually we understand mental health care is important and most people profess a desire to lessen the stigma. I have to believe a time will come when our emotional health is viewed in the same light as physical health. Most of us are able to recognize the benefits of preventive health care check-ups, exercise and good nutrition. We might agree in theory that mental health care is important, yet it seems as though it only gets widespread attention when we find ourselves scrambling in response to a loss or tragic event. The spotlight shines brightly on on mental health awareness when we use hindsight to second guess and pass judgement on missed opportunities, and signs we failed to see and act on.
Serious mental illness is not the focus of this piece. However we cannot respond effectively to the larger issue of mental illness if we do not step back and first consider preventive mental health care. Proactively addressing an issue will typically result in greater success than a reactive reply to a crisis. We have to start by confronting the stereotypes attached to therapy and people who go to therapy. Those who have not done focused self work with a therapist cannot be expected to fully understand what it offers. In my experience, those who initiate therapy do so to take responsibility and control of their own well being in a way that many do not.
Change the Mindset
We must stop casting aspersions on therapy. Are you an advocate or an antagonist? Stand up and start the conversation. Today. Now. If we want to normalize and endorse the importance of emotional health we must take responsibility for our role in changing the mindset. We must equip ourselves with information and understanding. We need to bravely step into dialogue, demystify the process, and dispel the misconceptions about mental health care and therapy. If we want to change the perception, we can’t be afraid to talk about it.
Start a Conversation
In the coming weeks, my hope is to use this blog to initiate conversation about why we don’t go to therapy. Please feel free to share your comments and start talking with friends and family members. We can’t make a difference if we perpetuate the silence. I'll kick things off with a very common concern I hear about therapy, the stigma itself.
What will people think if they know I’m in therapy?
On that same note, I also hear, "people will think I’m weak if I can’t fix my problems on my own". It was Albert Einstein who said “We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. It's amazing how we can make universal logic situational!
How many areas of our life are we considered weak if we seek to expand our understanding and knowledge base? How about if we need expertise? Are we ashamed to admit we hire accountants to help us with our taxes, personal trainers for fitness, doctors, lawyers, hair stylists, tutors, mechanics, computer techs? We can justify contracting virtually any other service provider without shame. For some reason, personal issues fall into a unique category of exception, as if we shouldn’t need to engage someone to help us with emotional challenges. How do we overtly or covertly feed into this way of thinking?
If we are stuck and not getting much traction in dealing with an emotional or relational problem, it should show strength of character to seek the support of someone trained in that area to help us. It should not induce shame or secrecy. We encourage others to ask for help, but do we take our own advice? Are you an advocate or a silent participant? If you want to be part of the solution but don't know what you can do, just start a conversation, you never know who you may be helping!
Check back in the days to follow for additional discussion points about why we don’t engage; along with some suggestions and alternate perspectives to consider. Please forward to friends, family, and co-workers to continue the conversation. We CAN make a difference together.
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