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Mental Health Stigma

Awareness of mental health issues has come a long way in the last several years, but it can still go further. While the stigma has been decreasing with time, individuals who are struggling with their mental health have become more open about seeking the appropriate help. This is an indicator of steps being taken in the right direction, both by the individual and by society. Just as we go to medical professionals to maintain our physical health, it should be just as normal to go to a therapist to maintain our mental health. Imagine if there had been a stigma about going to the physician for our physical health, a dentist for our dental health, or an optometrist for our vision health; our health would quickly deteriorate rather than seeking the necessary help. So why is it that when it comes to mental health, there is this great reluctance to get the help that is needed?

Our mental health is often neglected because it is not seen as a priority or something that could have a serious impact on other aspects of our life. However, it does. In fact, the mind’s health can affect the remainder of the body in countless ways from how we feel to what we do, you know, chemical releases in the brain and stuff. Have you ever noticed how when you are feeling upset you feel a lack of energy, you can’t focus on, you don’t feel like eating, or your sleep is affected? Or when you feel anxious, you begin feeling your heart race, your thoughts race, or you can’t think? I guess the point is that our mental health is very important because it can affect us in many ways and potentially negatively affecting those around us too; kind of like the flu and nobody likes that.

I was recently talking with a friend about mental health awareness and we compared a specific mental illness, such as depression, to a physical illness, such as an ulcer. If an individual feels a pain in their abdomen or side that’s consistently getting worse, they are not going to ignore it. They will most likely get it checked out or look up their symptoms on google first, but regardless of their first step they acknowledged that there is an issue and considered a solution. Now say the same individual is instead feeling irritated, can’t sleep, finds himself over eating, constantly preoccupied, and has just lost interest in everything; being unaware of mental health might allow this person to just ignore these issues and try to muddle through day after day, possibly getting worse. The key here, in this over-worded comparison, is knowledge. Through raising awareness and education, people can become more knowledgeable about mental health, their mental health. They can learn to detect problems related to their mental health just like they detect issues with their physical health.

Recognizing that you need to seek mental health services should not be any more embarrassing than getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist, unless he asks you about your flossing habits. It is not an admission of weakness, nor is it an admission of insanity; it is simply an admission that there is a better solution for a problem than ignoring it.

Ali Elrehaimy

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