By: Natalie Parker, Lead Intake Specialist – The PBS series, Mysteries of Mental Illness, was recently recommended to me and as someone that works in the mental health field, I found it to be enlightening and informative. The series, especially in episode two, explores what is considered normal and examines the labels and stereotypes within mental health.
The episode starts out explaining that the definition and treatment for mental illness has evolved over time. However, the existence of stereotypes and stigmas surrounding mental health have remained.
The stigma behind mental illness and diagnosis prevents those in need from receiving treatment. They suffer in silence instead of seeking help. The stereotypes behind mental illness (those with diagnoses are weak, attention seeking, and not normal) creates a barrier between clients and help.
The episode explains that we need to change how we look at mental illness and how we define normal. When your arm is broken, you see a doctor so that your arm can heal correctly. Yet, as a society, mental health is not looked at the same way and is not treated with the same level of priority.
In episode two of the series, Pastor Michael Walrond describes how, since his early twenties, he has experienced depression and thoughts of suicide but never sought help. In his community, mental health was not discussed. Walrond states that he suffered in silence, as many people do due to the sigma around mental health. “I remember going to that first therapy appointment with all sorts of walls up. Not wanting to admit something was really wrong. Because as a black man, there is not a desire for one more label…The individual becomes synonymous with the thing they are wrestling with.” Due to the stereotypes of mental health and stigmas, Walrond felt that it would be more detrimental to seek help instead of suffering in silence.
Psychiatrist Angela Coombs states, “Where is the line between cultural judgement and medical diagnosis? Are psychiatric labels helpful or harmful?” Coombs suggests that not only should we analyze how we look at mental health and diagnoses, but also examine what our motives are within the mental health field. “Are we saying and diagnosing people to get them a recovery oriented and humanizing kind of care that affirms people’s humanity or are we using it to treat people as less than human?”
If we can change our mindset on how we view mental health and diagnosis, then perhaps we can change the stigma around mental health and instead encourage others to seek help. When your arm is broken, you see a doctor so that you can heal. I hope together we can change the stigmas surrounding mental health to encourage others to seek healing.
If you are interested in finding out more about the PBS series, visit the website Mysteries of Mental Illness.
Additionally, reach out to EAC to set up a time to talk with one of our counselors. We’re here to help!