Comments like these truly frustrate me. They reflect attitudes that feel so ignorant and misguided even though I sense they’re widespread.
I responded to this woman by telling her of the great benefits in my own family from mental health therapy, but my response was inadequate. I’m still frustrated. So here I go venting to you, my dear blog readers—though I sense I’m preaching to the choir.
First: Yes, strong stigmas persist related to mental illness. Things are slowing improving, but not fast enough. It’s unfortunate, but these are the current realities. Nevertheless, a child seeking treatment can be taught that there is no more shame in receiving such remedies than for any other ailments. An enlightened mother or father can help mitigate general societal stigma issues so there’s no need for a negative impact on the child’s self-esteem. Usually it will be the other way around: treatment will improve self-esteem.
Second: No one need know other than the individual treated—and his or her parents, if a child is minor. Even as an adult I received treatment for years without anyone but my wife and therapists knowing. My employers definitely didn’t know, as I didn’t want to risk career limitations imposed by unenlightened supervisors. I worked to ensure there were no negative ramifications from stigmas, and it worked. More recently now that I’m self-employed, I’ve let the whole world know of my struggles. That’s been cathartic.
I few weeks ago I witnessed an example of how prejudice and misinformation about mental illness is perpetuated through the mass media. As I was doing some errands in my car I flipped through a few radio channels. I listened for just a few minutes to a talk show hosts. He was trying to make a point about how boneheaded a politician from another political party had been. To add an exclamation point to his analysis, he wanted to add some personal insult. I could almost hear the gears turning in his head of what he would say. After a short pause he said, so and so (can’t remember the politician’s name) “is mentally ill.” Wow, I thought to myself, for someone who frequently brags about how he boldly proclaims the truth, he sure doesn’t is showing his ignorance and lack of education. Unfortunately, these kinds of statements are heard all too frequently.
Third: Since when did people stop seeking help because of a bad experience with one professional. So would they not seek treatment for a broken leg if they’d had an unfortunate encounter with a medical provider sometime in their past? Of course not! That would be silly.
Over my twenty years of receiving psychotherapy, I visited with several professionals. There were multiple reasons for changes included that my family moved states a few times for my work. Another reasons was that I didn’t “click” with at all with a few of the therapists I met with. Two or three made me downright angry. But why would I let that stop me? I knew I wanted to get to a better place, so I persisted. And boy has my perseverance paid off!
I was recently chatting with a good friend in his 50s. He’s very bright and approachable. His kindness and quick wit make everyone want to be around him. He told me about his experiences with mental illness. Several years ago someone commented to him that he likely had an attention deficit disorder. He thought that was crazy, because he knew he wasn’t “crazy.” When his wife concurred with the ADD observation, he was shocked. She said she had not told him before because the condition hadn’t at all bothered her.
He read a book about ADD, which led him to visit a professional, who confirmed that my friend indeed had ADD. He was also diagnosed as being clinically depressed. More shock for my friend! But he was wise enough to do something about these findings. It took him a while to get the right medications and counseling. However, he’s now a much happier man and is thrilled that life is now much sweeter and more rewarding. He overcame his own prejudices on mental illness. By doing so, he got to a much better place. Now, he feels comfortable enough to share his journey with others. I hope everyone listens.
How I wish everyone in the world could right now better understand mental illness for what it is! Why can’t everyone have epiphanies about it? It would sure help a lot of people get to a better place. I’d be a lot less frustrated about it all, too.
OK. I got it off my chest. I feel better now. Thank you for listening.