It’s also more difficult if you try to do this without adequate support. Stigma and shame are big reasons people don’t get psychological help when they need it. In many ways, therapy has normalized, for which I am grateful. We have come to a point where, as a psychiatrist, I can talk myself about battling teletherapy during the pandemic. Major shows like Grey’s anatomy have even put lesser-known types of therapy into the spotlight. But in my experience, drugs are still pretty stigmatized, usually much more so than therapy. It’s such a shame because medication can be so critical to the mental health of many people. “There is a feeling that when you take medication you are ̵
“Stigma prevents people from getting the help they need,” says Dr. Jack Turban, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Stanford University School of Medicine, told SELF. Fortunately, more people have spoken publicly … from celebrities like Selena Gomez to doctors. I hope we make progress. “
While not everyone who is experiencing some level of mental distress during this time may need mental health treatment, it is always important to have open conversations about the nuances of mental wellbeing. “When you normalize problems that people individually have hidden, you lower the threshold so that they can talk about them,” says Dr. Kali Cyrus, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medicine, told SELF.
But what does it actually look like in practice to normalize mental health problems? It can definitely mean that we are really open and honest about our own mental health or difficult emotions. For example, maybe you curate your social media posts less and instead make them more realistic. This shows when you are stressed, tired, angry, sad, or a different number of emotions. But you may not be ready to be as open about how you are doing, and that’s perfectly fine. (Of course it is important to try to talk to someone if you have a hard time, even a friend, just to make sure you don’t have everything in there.)
Also, normalizing discussions about mental health can mean that if it looks like your roommate or friend is really going through it, say something like, “This pandemic was so emotional so I just wanted you to know That I’m here to talk if you need me. “Then actually follow and be ready to talk to them without judgment and maybe even without resolution. Sometimes people just want someone to listen, not try to fix their problems.
Normalizing mental health problems can also mean creating a culture at work where you, as a boss or in a leadership position, is where vulnerability is acceptable by talking about your own feelings and life stressors. You should also normalize things like going to therapy appointments, even using that as an example of a perfectly valid reason not to be in the office for a while. With that in mind, time out for mental health needs (such as on a mental health day) should not only be the norm, it should be encouraged.
You can also normalize mental health discussions by having you and your friends talk about a celebrity who’s been on the news for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, for example. You can commend the celebrity for sharing this information and not laughing at their actions or using words like “crazy” or “insane” to describe their behavior. Even if you hold back from misusing words like “schizophrenic” or “bipolar”, it can go a long way, as can you avoiding being dismissively “addicted” or “committed suicide”, since it sounds like a crime.