• Colleen Lennon, LCSW

Let’s Stop the Negative Stigma of Mental Illness and Therapy

As a mental health provider, I am always concerned about and upset by the stigma and negative perception of mental illness/disorders, going to therapy or seeking mental health services, taking psychotropic medication, or even talking about mental health or illness/disorders in general. There is a significant number of untreated individuals who could greatly benefit from any type of mental health services but often do not seek them due to personal embarrassment or shame, concerns about others’ opinions, lack of knowledge or information, or even due to lack of funding or treatment options available. When you are sick or have a physical or medical problem you make an appointment with a doctor, when you have a cavity or issue with a tooth you go to the dentist, when your car starts acting up you take it to a mechanic, if you are confused about your taxes you see an accountant, but when we are having difficulties with anxiety, depression, or any other psychological stressor or issue we often times don’t seek out the help of a therapist or mental health provider. It is okay to ask for help or to need the assistance from a trained professional when something goes wrong or there is an issue or situation that is difficult to understand or get through.

There is also a significant number of individuals who do seek the help of a mental health provider, take medication, or have a mental illness/disorder who also feel the need to hide it or even deny it to others. This should not be the case. There should be no reason that a person should feel embarrassed, shamed, or judged for taking care of themselves. We would not look down upon or judge someone for taking their vitamins, brushing their teeth, working out, or any other form of physical self-care, so why do we do it for mental health self-care? We need to put an end to the negative perception surrounding mental health illness/disorders and treatment and all do our part to try to lessen or end the stigma.

Talk about it. In order to make mental health a topic that is no longer considered taboo or uncomfortable we need to talk about it, be open and honest with each other, and have discussions about it in a more positive light. There should be no shaming or judging of someone who struggles with a mental health issue/disorder, takes medication, or attends therapy. We need to be more open and forthcoming about our own personal experiences and issues and be non-judgmental of others for theirs as well. This is a conversation worth having, and continue to have, with people in our lives who are important to us.

Advocate and support. Be a voice for the promotion and support of mental health and therapy. If someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue/disorder or could benefit from therapy, recommend it to them and support them through the process.

Donate. The funding available for mental health services and facilities is on a rapid decline and greatly in need of economical support. If you are able to, donate to mental health organizations, community centers, non-profits, or any cause that supports the advocacy and promotion of mental health.

There doesn’t need to be, and shouldn’t be, a stigma and negative perception of mental health and therapy or for those who struggle with their mental health or psychological issues, seek mental health services, or take psychotropic medication. Just as you would take care of your physical health or an issue in your life, take care of your mental health as well.

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