It’s hard to believe we (i.e. society) still think less of someone who is dealing with a mental illness. We stigmatize those with mental health issues. In contrast, a physical ailment is somehow acceptable. The only reason I have come up with is that a physical ailment is viewed as “not your fault” nor a reflection of you as a person while a mental health issue is something you have the power and control to avoid. To that I say, “Really?”
In reality, the opposite may be true. A “classic” mental disorder such as schizophrenia or bipolar may be an uncontrollable chemical imbalance in the brain. On the other hand, lung cancer, heart disease and obesity can be significantly improved with personal lifestyle changes.
Perhaps the reason stigma exists around mental illness is because those suffering may act or behave differently than most people. Once again, just because someone is different does not mean they are “bad”. Sadly, mistreating someone because they are different than you is still commonplace around the world. In the words of the late Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”.
Another reason mental health stigmas may exist could be because when the general public thinks of mental illness they think schizophrenia, psychopathic, obsessive-compulsive, bipolar and multiple personalities. These disorders obviously exist but in far less numbers (less than 6% of US) than one might think and definitely far less than the mental health issues every person deals with every day.
Did you catch that? Every person on the planet is dealing with mental health issues every single day. If we accept the fact that we all deal with mental health issues everyday then the stigma can end because we’ll all have it. If you must maintain physical health daily then you must maintain mental health daily as well… and we don’t.
Have you ever felt stressed? Have you ever been anxious or worried about an upcoming event or an event that has already passed? Have you ever felt down, depressed, alone or lost even for a brief time? These feelings affect your mental health and are a natural part of life. Similarly, heart and lung health, ear, nose and throat, weight, skin and more factor into your physical health.
So what is society doing and what are you doing to improve your mental health? In recent years there has been a significant push toward physical health and wellness. Fitness and nutrition programs and apps have become well-accepted in today’s culture. But, what resources are available to improve mental health short of seeking counseling? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of counseling but it seems that resource is only called upon when a crisis is at-hand.
Did you know that personal connection can significantly improve your overall mental health? Relationships and a personal connection with someone is a basic human need. The bond between a parent and child is an obvious place to find connection. But also think about that teacher or coach you had as a child. Perhaps you had a best friend or group of friends that served as your deepest support network. It doesn’t matter where you find connection as long as you have found somebody and they have found you.
The key is, connection requires a two-way sharing of personal information. I’m not talking about deep dark secrets but I am talking about what you’re thinking and feeling. No, not what you post on social media, such as “I’m having the best margarita of my life!”. But something you’d share with only your best friend, such as, “I’m applying for a promotion at work and if I get it I can really help take our company to a new level.”
When you feel connected and supported it can lift your spirits on a tough day and give you the strength to move forward. Having a connection can give you the confidence to try something new because if it works out, you can celebrate together. If it doesn’t work, that person is there to help you through it. “Everybody needs somebody,” sings Bryan Adams and it’s true.
Easing the stress of life’s greatest and hardest moments and having someone who is there for you and you for them helps reduce the work our brains have to manage. In doing so we are improving our state of mental health.
Few programs exist for the masses to help improve their overall mental and emotional wellness. Fortunately, one called FamilyeJournal.com improves wellness by helping you improve your communication and connection. It’s free to use and great for ages 7+. FamilyeJournal is a fun and super simple way to have fun conversation with those closest to you. It only takes about 5 minutes to use so give it a try for a few weeks.
I began by discussing the stigma of mental health and I hope I’ve shown you why the stigma is unfounded because we all deal with our own mental health every day. I then explained how having a personal connection can ease the stress on your mental health system. Finally, I offered a program that’s free and can help you build those connections no matter what your age or where you live.