It is no secret that there is a lot of stigma that surrounds mental health. It’s time to break that stigma and start talking about a condition that affects 1 in 5 Americans. So why don’t people want to talk about mental health? Most people aren’t hesitant to talk about a physical condition like a broken arm or heart disease.
Mental health stigma prevents people from seeking help for a condition that is treatable. With treatment many people can have a better quality of life, and completely overcome their mental health issues. To put it in perspective, 44,193 Americans die by suicide each year, costing the United States 51 billion dollars annually. 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental health condition. With support and treatment many deaths by suicide are preventable.
Let’s discuss and challenge some of the reasons people are afraid to talk about their mental health conditions.
Fear of Judgment
Fear of judgment often prevents people from talking about their mental health issues. Many people are afraid that they will be looked at as weak or alienated by their friends, professionals, or family. The reality is that mental health issues are common, so no one is really suffering alone unless they remain silent. For example, a new mother may not want to step forward and talk about postpartum depression because she feels people will look at her differently and judge her as a parent. In reality, between 11-20% of all new mothers will experience postpartum depression. If this new mother spoke up and reached out for support, chances are that other people she knows would have also experienced this condition and could relate to her experience.
Fear of Consequences
Many people are afraid to discuss their mental health issues because of fear of consequences. People may be afraid that they will lose friends, lose their job, have their children removed, be treated differently, be disempowered, etc. The truth is that many people who experience mental health issues excel in school, receive higher education degrees, have many friends, have successful careers, and are great parents. Fear of consequences can prevent many children and adults from seeking the support that they need to help them thrive.
Due to stigma many people feel shame or embarrassment about their mental health condition. We are bombarded by negative images of people with mental illness on the news and on social media. The truth is that some of the most famous, creative, and intelligent people in history have suffered from a mental health condition, including: Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Carri Fisher, and Vincent van Gogh just to name a few. Additionally, 72% of entrepreneurs are affected by mental illness. There is a great deal of publications and research that suggest a strong link between mental health conditions and genius. In fact, according to Psychology Today, many historical creative and successful people discussed how mental illness gave them their creative edge.
Fear and shame inhibit many people from talking about and seeking help for their mental health conditions. Mental illness is common, often easily treatable, and for some may even serve as a strength. It’s time to move past stigma, and BRING THE CONVERSATION ABOVE WATER!