May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it's time to talk about confronting the stigma around therapy. Many people would benefit from therapy but won't choose it because they feel ashamed and weak when confronted with emotional difficulties. There is no shame in seeking professional help for emotional difficulties anymore than there is to visit a medical doctor for your physical health.
Physical and Mental Health are entwined. Ignoring either can lead to greater difficulties. Early intervention is the key to dealing with both physical and mental problems.
Men are particularly at risk from not talking about emotional issues. Men can perceive themselves as weak and inferior for feeling anxious, depressed, angry, overwhelmed and other uncomfortable emotions. Stuffing feelings down or ignoring them can be dangerous to functioning in relationships, can interfere with concentration at work, contribute to fatigue, irritability.
Here are some excerpts from an article by Sean Evans, "Not Talking About Mental Health is Literally Killing Men", May 2, 2018.
"Your mental health is inseparable from your physical health. Not a revolutionary concept, but what is astounding is the stigmatization that still surrounds men who dare to talk about their emotional struggles.
Men who are vocal about any kind of mental issues can be dismissed as weak. As inferior. As flawed, broken guys who are more likely to be ostracized for their honesty, instead of rewarded for their bravery. Instead of affording a fellow man compassion, we mock, belittle, and turn a blind eye. We freely spit the phrase, 'Man up', as though your gender alone should suffice to guide you through your darkest times.
Or worse the response can be 'Well, that sucks', then change the subject because talking about feelings is just too real.
What’s real is the fact that 9 percent of men experience depression. That’s more than 6 million men. More than 3 million men struggle with anxiety, daily. Of the 3.5 million people diagnosed as schizophrenic by the age of 30, more than 90 percent are men. An estimated 10 million men in the U.S. will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. One in five men will develop and alcohol dependency over a lifetime. Male suicide is rising at such an alarming rate that it’s been classified as a 'silent epidemic.' It’s the seventh leading cause of death for males. That’s a staggering statistic.
It’s okay to feel depressed. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be anxious. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not have everything figured out, to feel a wave of uncertainty come crashing over you and not know which way is up, or when your next gulp of air will come. These are perfectly normal feelings that every man experiences. And it’s okay to talk about it. What’s not okay is suffering in silence." You can read the full article here.
Freud called therapy the Talking Cure. It's time to talk!
Here are some misconceptions about therapy which may block someone from seeking help.