If you spend your life surrounded by people you can rely on, sharing thoughts and feelings probably comes naturally. In an atmosphere of mutual trust and care, staying mentally healthy often seems like a goal that’s not too difficult to accomplish.
Unfortunately, not every environment is equally affirming. In some cases, people who feel anxious, worried, scared, or depressed have no one to turn to for support.
For this reason, it is essential to break up stigma and negative stereotypes in mental health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mental health and stereotypes: why is stigma so dangerous?
Not so long ago, talking about mental health was almost taboo. A wide-spread belief that “only crazy people go to therapy” caused a lot of pain for those affected. Negative stereotypes and stigma in this area often bring harmful consequences, so we must learn to recognize them and spread awareness whenever we can.
What does stigma look like?
It’s not always easy to spot when someone puts people down for talking about their thoughts and feelings. Some people believe “shrinks” are only there for “crazy people;” it’s not a challenge to recognize such individuals. Sometimes, however, stigmatizing can be a lot more subtle.
Mental health stigma can appear in the form of:
- Snarky comments intended to steal the spotlight (“Yeah, you feel depressed, you should see my life”)
- Falsely supportive remarks that belittle another person’s negative feelings (“It’s just a bit of stress, sleep it off and you’ll be fine”)
- Denying the importance of mental health struggles (“Yeah, yeah, we’re all under pressure right now, but can you please finish the assignment in the next hour?”)
Shaming people for going to therapy is the worst form of stigmatizing, having the most potential to negatively affect people struggling to maintain their mental health.
Problems that stigma in mental health can cause
The fear of being shunned for seeking psychological help can be very intense and dangerous. People facing negative stereotypes about their mental health can sometimes go to extreme measures and cause themselves great harm.
There are numerous harmful effects and circumstances related to stigmatizing, including:
- Fear of seeking professional help
- Fewer opportunities to find work
- Lack of medical coverage for mental health treatment
- Struggling to pretend you feel happy, although it’s not the case
How to deal with stereotypes when seeking help?
If you’re looking for support and advice about seeking psychological help, or you know a person who struggles in doing so, here’s what’s important to remember in the process.
1. Your mental health has no alternative
People love to talk about others, and some of them happen to think of themselves as experts in everyone else’s life. This is how people have always been and probably always will be. It should in no way affect your plans when it comes to protecting your mental health.
Working on your feelings to lead a healthier and happier life is a perfectly normal thing and is a fundamental right of every person on the planet. Don’t let anyone take this right away from you.
2. Don’t doubt yourself or feel ashamed
Even if the negative words you hear about your journey leave a mark on you, power through them and leave them behind. There’s no need to doubt you’re doing the right thing. Working on yourself is always worth the effort you put into it.
Never doubt your decisions and resolutions when it comes to mental health. You’re not “broken,” “overly sensitive,” or “weak.” You’re a self-aware individual who acts when you see a problem, working proactively to solve it. There’s absolutely nothing to judge about that.
3. Stay in touch with like-minded, loving people
Emotional support is the most important part of the self-healing process. Surround yourself with people who truly care about you, whether they are family members, friends, or people you met in support groups.
When you have someone to pick you up if you fall, your journey to a happier, more fulfilled life is a whole lot easier. Having an experienced therapist you trust is another important aspect in keeping your progress on track.
These people are your “safety net,” ensuring that even when you are down, you have the support you need to keep going until you reach your goal.
4. Start the conversation
The topics related to mental health are numerous and complex. This is one reason most people resort to negative stereotypes. When it comes to mental health conversations, they know little about the subject and need to be educated about it.
Become the one who starts this conversation whenever the right opportunity presents itself. Ask and answer questions and share your experiences. This is the best way to banish negative stereotypes for good.
Joshua loves traveling, being introduced to different cultures, and creating social connections.
He started his career as the author of a blog that explored cultural differences, and he’s also very fond of psychology.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.
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