If your child fell off his bike and broke his arm, you wouldn’t hesitate to scoop him up and run to the emergency room for treatment. If you developed stomach pain so severe you could barely function, you’d get to your nearest urgent care or hospital to get treatment. And no one would question your decision to take care of your health, would they? In fact, people would encourage you to get to the doctor ASAP, right?
Then…why is there still such shame and stigma attached to getting help for your mental health? I remember when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease back in the early 90s. I was very sick and my life had changed with that diagnosis. It was pretty terrifying what the doc told me: people won’t have to hire you since they’ll be worried about the amount of work you’ll miss; you may have to have chemotherapy; you could face many surgeries; you could lose your eyesight. Talk about gloom, doom, and shock!
But those are all potential issues that come with Crohn’s disease. My physician urged me to seek out a therapist to learn how to deal with all that news he just handed me and to help me deal with stress…because stress is a wretched enemy of a person with Crohn’s. Stress exacerbates the illness like nothing else.
I did find a local therapist and I went, but other than my immediate family, nobody knew. I practically sneaked there under the cover of darkness. (Not really, I went during the day, but I felt like I almost needed a disguise). There was such a stigma then, ever more than now, and I didn’t want anyone to know.
My feelings have changed and I can only hope society’s will as well. If you hear of a married couple in marriage counseling, I say ‘bravo’. I don’t immediately believe they’re headed for divorce. There is a myriad of reasons they could be there, but the point is: they care enough about their marriage to get help.
Therapy is healthy. You’re taking care of your emotional and mental health. That shouldn’t be shameful or embarrassing. People shouldn’t be labeled “crazy” for having a therapist. According to Mental Health American, 1 in 5 adults has a mental health issue. But 56% of Americans with a mental health issue do not receive treatment. I would guess that this percentage is made up of some folks who don’t have access, either there isn’t a provider in their area or they don’t have the means or insurance to pay for treatment, and it probably also is made up of folks who simply choose not to seek treatment. Still more people probably don’t even factor into these numbers because they go undiagnosed.
There’s no need to put on a happy smile and pretend you’re alright, if you’re not. There’s no shame in seeking help and there should not be. If you have an issue, mental or physical, quite simply, you should seek help and it should be made available to you.
It is my hope that the stigma becomes less and less and availability of treatment becomes more and more. If you’ve read my story, you know that I have a wonderful therapist. I live in a larger area and it was still really difficult for me to find her. I wanted a biblical therapist so that was an even leaner selection. But it also my hope there will be more caregivers available.
Please don’t be ashamed or fearful to seek help if you need it. Taking care of yourself is a good thing.
Meet Melanie P. :
Melanie Pickett is a mom, wife, writer, blogger, and Jesus girl. Melanie spends most of her time at her own blog, melaniespickett.com where she writes about her domestic abuse survival, healthy relationships, life, and faith. She is busy with her work in progress, her first nonfiction book. Melanie has been published on Splickety Magazine, Whole Magazine, Breathe Writers Conference blog, and is an Entertainment Editor at Sonoma Christian Home, an online women’s magazine. Melanie is one of the founders and leaders of the women’s ministry, Yours Girls, for women all-in for Jesus who bear a burdensome struggle. Besides writing, Melanie loves to read, travel, play piano, listen to music, and spend time with her her very favorite people: her family. Melanie lives in west Michigan with her husband, two teen children, and her pug Gracie. Her favorite Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11 and one of her favorite quotes is: “They call us the dreamers, but we’re the ones who never sleep.”