Overcoming the Stigma of Seeking Therapy

The good news is that more and more Americans are seeking therapy to help them with their mental health issues, from depression to anxiety. In fact, nearly half of American households say at least one member of the family has sought mental health treatment in the past year, according to the American Psychological Association. This is in line with current estimates suggesting that half of the people with mental illnesses receive treatment, says the National Institutes of Mental Health; however, there are still tens of millions of people in this country who need help and aren’t getting it.

A lot of that has to do with the stigma attached to seeking therapy for mental health problems. One would think in this day and age that such a stigma would be eradicated by now, but the opposite is true. As part of the APA findings above, 30 percent of people say the stigma enveloping mental health services has prevented them from reaching out.

Why is this stigma still around and what can we do to reduce it? After all, we wouldn’t hesitate to see a doctor if we or our children were very sick or broke a bone. Why are we still hesitating to improve our mental health?

Stigma is still a major stumbling block to seeking mental health help. You may ask yourself: “What will people think if they find out I’m seeing a counselor? What if I’m spotted coming out of the office? Does seeking therapy mean I’m crazy, weak or a failure? Given our socio-cultural conditioning, this line of thinking is actually quite common. However, it also deters many people from pursuing counseling despite experiencing significant emotional, physical, or mental distress.

To clarify, if you initiate counseling, this does not necessarily mean you have a serious mental illness. Instead, you may be facing serious life challenges, changes, or transitions that are hindering your ability to cope, points out Psychology Today. In turn, this can affect your mental well-being and how you function in daily life.

Fighting the Stigma

If you have lived with mental illness at some point, you may have faced blame for your condition. Maybe people called you names. They may have said you’re just going through a “phase” or perhaps “if you only tried harder,” you could help yourself. You may have been made to feel ashamed of something that’s out of your control. This is the power of stigma. It’s what holds people back from getting the help they need to get better.

Yes, it’s true that the stigma of mental illness has been reduced in recent years; however, the pace of progress has just not been quick enough.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests these tips for further reducing and eradicating the stigma of mental health issues.

  • Talk openly about your experiences with mental health.
  • Educate yourself and others.
  • Be conscious of the language you use to refer to mental health issues.
  • Encourage equality between physical and mental illness (remember, mental illness is a disease just like heart disease or diabetes).
  • Show compassion for those with mental illness.
  • Choose empowerment over shame.
  • Be honest about your treatment (how is it that people can say they’re going for a primary care visit without being judged yet the same is not true for those heading to a therapy appointment?).
  • Call people out for perpetuating the stigma, online and in person.

It takes a lot of bravery, strength, and persistence to make that first phone call for help. That’s the worst part, we promise. Once you’ve made that move, you will feel a weight lift off your shoulders. Call Comprehensive MedPsych Systems at 941-363-0878. Here, you will have access to compassionate, skilled providers who have experience treating a wide variety of mental health disorders and issues.