When I was first seeing a therapist and diagnosed with anxiety, it felt like a secret. I didn’t know how to bring up this topic with my friends, it felt like something taboo and embarrassing. I was afraid I would be judged and seen differently if people knew that I went to therapy. When I had to miss class for therapy I didn’t tell people why. I was secretive about it and would hope that my friends wouldn’t ask questions about it.
There’s still a long way to go in how we talk about mental health. Stigma, a lack of accessible knowledge about mental health, and the media are just a few of the reasons as to why many, regardless of age, can have incorrect information about how people coping with their mental health and show symptoms of mental illness live, behave, and think. This may require some explanation to the person to educate them at best, and can be really harmful to someone at its worst.
For what seems to be my entire life, I feel that I always manage my stress, anxiety, and struggles on my own – which I don’t think now looking back was the best thing to do. If I can be honest, I have always been insanely independent, and don’t like asking for help. I was always “that person” who brushed off the idea of a therapist, or speaking out my problems with someone who may be able to make me feel better.
The topic about how stigma affects how we view mental illness is not new. The way that people talk about mental illness can not only impact how we view those with mental illness, but how we can view our own. We’ve talked about stigma several times before, because it’s important to change this mindset and the harmful effects that it can have.
The demographics in the United States have shifted significantly. The Pew Research Center reported that there were 44.4 million immigrants living in the country in 2017, making up 13.6% of the total population. The increase in the immigrant population in the United States also means an increase in second-generation Americans – those who are born in the United States to immigrant parents (some people may also refer to these people as first-generation Americans, however).
Growing up, my family always had a stigma over mental health. I grew up believing therapy was for “crazy people” and that if you feel depressed or anxious, you should just spend more time with your friends or go do something outside instead of taking medication or talking to a therapist.
Sometimes, it can be really difficult to open up to others about our own mental health struggles. It may be especially difficult if the person you’re reaching out to for support doesn’t know much about conditions like depression or anxiety.
In any given year, one in five Americans will experience a mental illness. Of these people, 30% will choose not to seek help because they are worried about the negative perceptions of others. This stigma surrounding mental health affects everyone but is especially relevant to men.