I can’t count how many times I hear this phrase from not only clients, but in everyday conversations. The stigma around mental illness is what’s crazy, people aren’t actually crazy!
Self-stigma around what it means to have a “diagnosis” or to need therapy interferes with people getting help, and they suffer longer than they need to. Fear of what friends or family will say is another major obstacle to getting help.
Stigma in society related to mental illness doesn’t help the situation. Anytime there’s a mass shooting the first thing the media says is “mental health history under investigation.” 95% of violent crimes are committed by people WITHOUT a mental illness. And people with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of a crime than to commit one, and I have enough clients with a history of trauma to prove it.
Institutional stigma is a story for another day! The 3 largest providers of mental health services in the US are prisons (LA County jail, Cook County jail, and Rikers Island). Lack of funding and difficult cases falling through the cracks of a severely broken system are the evidence of institutional stigma.
”Mental Illness” might sound spooky, but your average anxiety and depression are part of that. 1 in 4 people experience a mental illness in their lifetime, and that’s probably a lower estimate than in actuality. I have friends and family who have or had different mental illnesses. I’ve had my own bouts of anxiety and depression. Some people’s experiences are chronic, some are not. I hear more and more women, personally and professionally, talking about anxiety and depression before, during, and after childbirth. And then there’s couples trying so desperately to start their dream of a family but struggling to do so, and many other common life experiences. Life is hard and unexpected, and at some point we’re all going to be dealt a bad hand, so if we can keep the conversation going about mental illness AND mental wellness, we can break down barriers to people getting help and be preventative and proactive in staying mentally and emotionally well.
The next time you hear or see someone struggling, even if you can’t understand or relate to what they are going through, tell them it’s ok! Tell them they’re not alone and they can get support if they need or want it. Treatment doesn’t have to be medication or therapy, it can be anything that helps the person feel balanced, in control, and able to be an active, effective participant in their life.
This month I will highlight the most common disorders to bring understanding and awareness to what those labels mean, and to help people feel empowered to help themselves, or help somebody else, get started on their journey to wellness by offering evidenced based tools and a variety of resources to try.
”I’m not crazy, I’m just really struggling and I feel like I’m losing control of my life.”
”I’m not crazy, I just can’t stop crying because I don’t feel good at anything.”
”I’m not crazy, I’m just so overwhelmed and feel so scared and stuck and I don’t know what to do.”
If you ever hear someone start that phrase, or you ever feel compelled to justify what you’re going through with that phrase- remind that person or yourself that indeed, they/you are not crazy. We’re human, and because of that we’re subject to suffering, and we often can’t see our way out of our suffering alone.