Removing the Stigma from Mental Health Treatment
What exactly is wrong about wanting to seek treatment for issues related to mental health? Why do we feel ashamed to admit that we have seen a therapist, or engaged in couples counseling to improve our relationship? Why can’t we state that we are taking an anti-depressant, just as commonly as we would state we take a Statin for blood pressure?
Those who have sought treatment for mental health have been judged and stigmatized by our society since for centuries. But is there any logical reason for this negative treatment? Do people who seek treatment for mental health truly deserve to be viewed differently? Well, let’s take a look.
Is it common to experience shame when you visit a doctor after a bone has been broken? That’s an easy no. I can’t think of many people that would advise you not to seek out a doctor when a bone has been fractured. Or is it normal to advise someone with an autoimmune disorder to “tough it out” and “get over it” instead of seeking medical attention? That would also seem to be dangerous advice that I don’t believe anyone who understands the human body would ever provide. So what makes the mind different?
I think many people view the mind as being separate from the brain and the body. It is something external to both entities, and as a result many people believe they are in complete control of their mental health. But that’s not entirely true. The mind exists as a by-product of the interactions between the brain and the rest of the body. To put it bluntly, if you were to cut out the frontal part of your brain, you would no longer have a mind. You wouldn’t be able to think (let alone think logically), make a plan, or interact using complex language. Thus, your mind is part of your brain.
I think the idea that we can control our minds is somewhat empowering, but somewhat misinformed. I believe that individuals can make decisions to change the way they think, or challenge core beliefs about themselves that impact them negatively. However, to believe that you are 100% in control of your mind is inaccurate. Our mind and subsequent mood is influenced by numerous brain neurotransmitters as well as the interactions from various body systems. If you have neurotransmitters that relay messages to depress the body, or agitate the body, or even produce voices that no one can hear, you don’t exactly have a switch to turn off those neurotransmitters. Again, I am a huge fan of therapy and the ability to change our mental experience. I am simply pointing out that individuals that are depressed, anxious, manic, or in a state of psychosis-they are not choosing to be in this state. It’s the same as choosing to knit your bones back together with the strength of your mind, or curing a disease as a sole result of positive thinking. Treating mental health is the same as treating any other part of the body. We can’t simply will ourselves to feel different, we should feel empowered to seek treatment in the same way we seek treatment for other parts of the body.
In addition, to seek treatment to help your mind and body is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of logical thinking, advanced planning, and care and concern for the state of your mind/body. The converse is true. If you don’t treat a broken bone or medical illness, you leave yourself vulnerable to infection and progressively worsening health. And if you don’t seek treatment for issues regarding mental health, you risk the chance that your health will only become worse.
In sum, we can remove the stigma of mental health treatment by engaging in treatment when needed, and having conversations with our friends and family about the importance of therapy. The more we experience this treatment, and make it a common part of our discourse, the more we can show others that the only stigma is the one that exists in their minds. And that is something they can actually choose to get over.
If you or a loved one would like to seek a mental health assessment, give the experts here at Brain & Body Integration a call today. Our clinical psychologists are eager to help you get back on the right track to happiness. Book an appointment at either one of our office locations in Colorado Springs or Denver today!