Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength
Asking for help is a sign of strength within a culture that informs how society thinks about mental health. Unfortunately the thought process is not always helpful or positive. As a result, one of the first things that I make sure to communicate with all of my clients, is just how amazing they are for asking for help. I do this because I know that our society is not set up for those who may be experiencing mental health difficulties to access care. This is largely because of the stigma associated with mental health. The presence of societal stigma can further lead one down a path of isolation thereby perpetuating difficulties.
Furthermore, people often feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness or ineptitude. That they couldn’t figure things out on their own. As a result they often feel shame and guilt. Both of which are emotions that have the potential to further complicate the underlying condition.
I firmly believe that those who stand up to stigma deserve praise and admiration. These people are contributing something invaluable to the larger society.
Fear of the Unknown
The fears that surround seeking and obtaining mental health care have their roots in our history as a human race. For a long time, the mentally ill were shunned from society and thought of as having incurable diseases. Later came the establishment of insane asylums and state hospitals with less than hygienic conditions. In most cases those who had mental illness were not always treated with the dignity and respect that they deserved.
This can be explained by the fact that mental health has never been as tangible as physical health. This is in terms of a thorough understanding of the subject and the various conditions associated with it. The lack of availability of diagnostic tools also plays a role. There is no blood test, or scan that can be done to diagnose a mental health condition. Also, despite our strides in understanding the underpinnings of mental health, there is a lot that is still left unknown.
Mental health and its treatment continues to remain an artistic science, with each condition living somewhere on the continuum between the abstract and concrete. To many, this is an extremely uncomfortable space to be in.
Asking for Help…A Growing Positive Example
In the face of the harsh cultural climate related to seeking out mental health care, a person who is able to overcome these barriers in addition to the barriers posed by their personal struggles, is truly remarkable. These people represent and set a growing, positive example for others in our society.
Take for example, the parent who has to deal with the various opposing forces that exist as they think through helping their child receive the help that they need. They may feel guilty about what they may have done wrong in the course of raising their child. They are also likely comparing their child to other “normal” (a relative and subjective term) children around them. Despite this, they may want to get help for their child, but are worried about the collateral effects. Will their child be labeled? Will they be put on medications? In the face of all of this push and pull, this parent is a warrior, and a true survivor for ultimately asking for help.
Pioneers Paving the Way
What about the person who has been battling anxiety or depression on their own? Each day this person hopes to get on top of it in order to navigate the world and achieve the goals they set for themselves. The person who is able to ask for help only after days, and weeks, of anxiety provoking introspection and re-framing of what it means to be healthy? Undoubtedly, this individual is a survivor, and an inspiring example of the resilient, transformative nature of the human spirit.
These people and those like them are the pioneers leading the way to help others to access care for a mental or behavioral health problem.
“As humans we live one fluid existence…”
In the end, health is health, and it is all connected. There are countless behavioral aspects to physical health and vice versa. As humans, we live one fluid existence, and the separation of mental health from physical health creates a dichotomous experience that is impossible to reconcile or consolidate. The sooner we as a society realize this, the stronger we will be as a race. Those who are already there, deserve all the praise and respect for paving the way for everyone else.
This is why I, as a Therapist, feel extremely privileged. After all, I live my life everyday sharing intimate energy, time, and space with the strongest and bravest souls on this earth.