It takes courage to be vulnerable and share your story. When it comes to mental health there is an added barrier, an invisible pressure, to overcome the societal stigma that often accompanies mental illness. Have you ever wondered why this stigma exists?
Humanity has a habit, and it’s not a good one. When something scares us, we ignore it. We pretend it’s not there; we say to ourselves “it’s not going to happen to me.” We see it all the time in medicine and in business. From the 50-year-old man that refuses to get the colonoscopy because he “knows” he isn’t going to be one of the ones to get colon cancer, despite the fact that his dad got it and he is losing weight uncontrollably… to the 35-year-old investing every dime he has on a new IPO that could make him a billionaire IF it makes it DESPITE the fact that the chances of him losing all of his money is over 99.9%. It’s a delusion. We delude ourselves into thinking that we somehow have control over these things or that by some sheer willpower we can influence the outcome when we can’t.
The mental health stigma is largely a result of this phenomenon of striving to maintain control. People don’t want to believe that you can’t “just snap out of it.” People want to believe that “you can.” People prefer the delusion to the reality and attempt to impress that belief on others because it makes them feel better about their own sense of control.
The fact is this: mental health disorders are a collection of brain injuries, real-physiological brain injuries, that are readily treatable if identified early and appropriately taken care of. Delays in treatment have consequences, including injuries that are much harder to treat, advanced disability, lost productivity, and for many… death. In this manner, the stigmatized approach to mental health is like closing your eyes in a boxing match. You won’t see the punch coming because you are choosing not to. But closing your eyes isn’t going to make your jaw feel any better when you get hit. On the contrary, if you enter that match with your eyes open, you may be able dodge it completely or limit some of the damage in the first place.
So, keep your eyes open when you step into the ring. Through admitting your lack of control you can begin to move forward with the process of healing.