The world of mental health and psychological diagnoses have historically been characterized as an array of psychiatric medication, asylums, phrenology, restraints, hospitalizations, and engagement in multiple modalities of treatment. The pharmaceutical companies are making millions of dollars from people diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, personality disorders, substance use disorders, bipolar, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and the list goes on. This area is also characterized by hopelessness, fear, confusion, helplessness, suicides, homicides, isolation, and much more.
But what if I told you we can change that. Do you not believe me? Are you cynical and even doubtful that both the view and experience of mental health difficulties can be changed? I step up to the challenge of addressing mental health stigma. And in terms of having a 180 degree change in terms of the experience of mental health disorders, to that I say, stay tuned. Rahter than sharing research articles and statistics to prove that my hypothesis is true, my goal is to share real life experiences to motivate you and instill hope to an often unheard community.
Throughout my introduction to mental health, I chose not to use the term mental illness. I believe that it is important to delineate between mental health and mental illness. Mental illness connotates sickness. It suggests that there is a problem that needs to be addressed aggressively so that the individual can get to the point of healing and health. Illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, or the common cold require that an expert be sought out to help one overcome their problem. Similarly, experts in mental health must be involved to improve the mental health state of many individuals. When we see these struggles through the frame of mental illness, our view becomes associated with the idea that medication is dished out, appointments are attended, and the individual is monitored to reach a balanced state.
However, mental health implies something positive. Like our physical health, we must work at keeping our mental health in good condition so we can develop protective factors to mental illness. Mental health gives the picture of hope, little to no involvement in drug therapy, maintenance sessions with mental health providers, and the ability to cope with the demands of life in a manner that allows you to be successful.
While I won't fill you with research here, it is important to understand the power of language and the words we speak. An article from The Ohio State University promotes this idea and can be found here . So as you read topics on this website and attend my presentations related to mental health and stigma, know that I do not use these terms interchangeably. I use the terms as two distinct experiences. And hopefully with the distinction, we can begin tackling the real stigma that comes along with both.