by Alissa Klugh, MS, LPC
Why do we stay so quiet about mental health? Why do so many people have such a hard time admitting when they need help? Why do we like to act as though everything is “okay” when it clearly is not? While we sit back and play pretend, hundreds of thousands of individuals suffer from the symptoms of mental health diagnoses. In accordance with World Mental Health Day 2018, I found it appropriate to blog about the silence behind mental health.
I want to continue to bring awareness to the topic of mental health and the silence behind it. Being a clinician of many years, and, let’s face it, a human being, first, I have seen, first-hand how some people treat mental health needs. I’ve seen people pretend like they are “fine.” I’ve seen people come to treatment and refuse to let their insurance company cover the costs because they do not want “anybody to know” that they are seeking treatment. I’ve seen multiple people come in because “my mom wants me here” or “my husband thinks I need to talk to someone.” But what happens so less often is people being truly open to and about seeking assistance.
Finding someone to talk to does not make a person any less of a person. And, no, I am not “just saying this because [I am] a therapist.” I am saying this because we are each people, first. No matter what the problem, what the diagnosis, what the symptoms are, we are human beings with those challenges happening, not the challenge, then the human being.
I’m talking about person-first language here, and if we want to become a “woke” society, then we need to start speaking in this way. We want people to know us, not our diagnosis, and until we start to speak and think in this manner, we are going to continue our stigmas. We need to think of people as humans, as individuals, before we start to identify their symptoms and what they’re going through. We matter. Our lives matter. What we are making of our lives and what arises in our lives, comes after.
Anyway, back to the silence behind mental health: How do we help others become more aware? How do we help people going through rough spots in their lives feel less ‘alone?’ How do we get people to talk more openly about their lives to trusting individuals? How do we support people in making changes? Here are some ideas, below:
- Be Compassionate: If you know someone who is going through a tough time, show them you care. This could be done as easily as letting them know you’re there to listen, even if you do not necessarily know how to make it better. Tell your loved one that you are glad that they are confiding in you and that you support their choice to see someone, if that is what they choose to do.
- Be Understanding: Your loved one may be embarrassed, scared, and not understanding his-/herself with everything that is happening. Ask questions. Try to be open. Keep your negative judgements to yourself. Remember that the first step to someone getting the help they deserve is reaching out to someone. If you are that someone, try to show you get it. Ask for clarification. Paraphrase what they’re telling you. If you get it wrong, ask them to restate it so that you can understand.
- Be Encouraging: Tell your loved one that you are proud of them for opening up, seeking treatment, or just taking those first steps to getting what they need. If they hit another bump in the road, continue to share your pride for the hard work they are doing. Ask them if you can play a role in their change.
- Be Open: If you are going through a challenging time, yourself. Don’t be afraid to seek help and open up. You aren’t always going to be able to “shrug off” problems that arise. Sometimes they go deeper than what we like to believe. If we are open to finding what we need to move in the right direction, and we let others know the process, we are helping increase the awareness.
- Be Aware: When/If you see someone who may be going through a challenging time, let them know of potential resources that are available. Share your personal stories or stories of others. If someone is struggling, refer back to numbers 1-4. Your compassion, understanding, encouragement, and openness may be what someone needs to light their path to growth and change. Don’t be afraid to open your eyes and take action.
The fact remains that, despite my tips to help the silence of mental health, there are still people out there who may be looking for one small sign to get the assistance they need. If you think this is your sign, please take it. I want you to be able to feel the way you are supposed to feel. I want you to have an open and available heart. I want you to feel like you again. You deserve it. Your loved ones deserve it. Do it for you. Do it for your mother. Do it for your wife. Do it just to say you did. Help one another. Support one another. Be the compassionate, loving people you were put on this earth to be. Just because you “messed up” once (or many times) in your life does not mean that you do not deserve another chance. Let’s love one another and be helpers.
Get rid of the silence.
You are welcome to use these tips to benefit you, or find other resources and help to move you in the right direction. It is your freedom of choice. I encourage you to find what is right for you and your journey.
If you or someone you know is in need of mental health services, please contact your local/county human services department, or search hhs.gov or SAMHSA for resources in your area. They will be able to point you in the right direction for the change you are seeking. If you are in the Pittsburgh, PA area and would like to schedule an appointment with one of the clinicians at Pittsburgh Psychotherapy Associates, you can click, here (please remember that PPA is not a facility for mental health emergencies).
If you are in need of immediate assistance, go to your local emergency room or pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1 to get help.