Throughout history, a strong stigma has existed around the topic of mental health. A stigma is something that degrades or takes away from one’s character or reputation. Evidence of mental health can be found during the middle ages but didn’t become commonplace discussion until the 1900s. As you begin educating yourself around mental health, you begin to recognize that there are levels of severity and diagnosis. Even today, clarity around these levels can be a little foggy, although I would like to point out a distinction between mental illness and mental wellness. When talking about mental health, people often lump mental illnesses into the same category as mental wellness causing much of the negative stigma surrounding mental health. Because they are lumped together, many people think something is wrong with them, rather than recognizing events and environmental factors that significantly impact their mental wellness and health.
Confusion Around Mental Wellness
The mental wellness category is where most people experiencing struggles with their mental health reside. These struggles include challenges like anxiety, depression, panic attacks. Contrary to the popular culture and stigma, it isn’t right to group every disorder or illness into the same category or severity. We need to understand that most people will experience some type of mental health challenge at least once in their lifetime. So why should it be perceived as something so negative or scary?
This stigma is potentially more dangerous than the mental health struggle itself. It is the cause of countless destroyed families, addictions, and even suicides attempts. Often, it stands in the way of an individual seeking and more importantly receiving the help that they need.
Confronting the Mental Health Stigma
I grew up in a stable home with two loving parents that did their very best in raising their four children, me being the youngest. While all of us experienced our ups and downs, at age 26, I was the first in my family to seek out support through therapy. Growing up I created the belief that asking for help is a clear display of weakness, but as I confronted this stigma around mental illness and asked for help, I found the strength that I had never felt before.
I remember the first time I told a close family member that I was seeing a therapist for my anxiety and panic attacks. Shortly after the brief conversation, which informed them that someone they loved was needing a therapist, I was told the news brought tears to their eyes and made them feel like they failed me in some way. So, this stigma hits close to home for me. Gratefully I wasn’t suffering from a severe mental illness, I just needed someone to talk to and help coach me through my emotions. What my family member, and so many others in a similar situation, don’t often realize or understand initially, is that therapy was helping me become a better, more capable son, brother, and man. It has helped me understand the reasons for different emotions, it has helped me understand the emotions and actions of others, and most importantly it has made me a more kind and empathetic human being.
Hope for the Future
Fortunately, for the future of the world, the stigma around mental illnesses and wellness is being challenged. More and more individuals are seeking the help they need. Young people are major contributors to this change in culture. They believe in individuality, to embrace our faults, and love each other no matter what. Breaking down this degrading stigma is what the world needs. Let us continue to find strength in leaning on each other and becoming more capable and loving individuals.
Every person on this planet is a unique individual, who sees, touches, and feels in their unique way. It is our purpose at Overt Foundation to help more people recognize that there is power in being open and accepting to whatever challenge and severity they are facing as an individual. We all face challenges and we all need to support each other! So please share your story and donate to further our cause of restoring one community and individual at a time.
Codee grew up in Mesa, Arizona, and graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in International Business. His passion for mental health comes from personally experiencing the challenges that anxiety and other mental or social pressures create in our day-to-day lives.