By Dr. Leona Kashersky, PsyD
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as many as one in five Americans will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. This report is likely an underestimation of how many Americans experience mental health challenges during a lifetime. Of the nearly 60 million Americans who experience mental health concerns each year, many will never seek treatment for a variety of reasons including social stigma, cultural norms, and lack of access. In fact, a recent report published in the journal Psychological Science and the Public Interest found that an estimated 40% of individuals with serious mental health concerns either never receive care or start an intervention program without completing it.
The stigma surrounding mental health issues can be a significant barrier to care. Unfortunately, many people unknowingly contribute to the stigma simply with their everyday language choices. A poor choice of words not only stigmatizes, stereotypes, and creates unrealistic assumptions about certain people, but also can trivialize serious mental health conditions and their accompanying experience. As we move forward into a more enlightened future where mental health access and needs are considered just as normal and standard as the need to address a flu or more chronic physical health challenges, let’s dream of this brighter and more hopeful world together here!
In this new and more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, we would accept mental health hygiene and seeing professionals as part of living a normal and healthy life. Acknowledging and discussing symptoms wouldn’t be secretive or shame-based. Just as our communities gather to support those with physical illness, we would gather to do the same for those with depression, anxiety, and neurological differences. We would have more open dialogue about how this gathering would look different because the needs of these individuals are different than those suffering from flu or other chronic physical health challenges. This more beautiful world would allow us to come together armed with education and support to face life’s most challenging mental health setbacks without the shame and judgement we often face in our world today.
In this more beautiful world our health plans would adequately cover inpatient and partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient programs. All of us would have access to appropriate levels of care when we need it. Communities and families would know how to embrace and integrate individuals who are struggling with appropriate and supportive boundaries. Substance abuse treatment would be easy to access and affordable, saving countless lives. If we really want this beautiful new world, we can begin this journey by taking 3 simple steps.
- Accept what is! All of us need mental health maintenance. All of us grieve. All of us suffer. It IS the human condition. Let’s accept it and help each other.
- Suspend judgement! Judging ourselves or others in their mental suffering only serves to extend the duration of suffering. LET GO of the shoulds and other criticisms.
- Dream of the life you want and believe it is possible! Imagine how you will feel when this happens. Allow yourself to experience the full emotion and somatic sensation of those emotions. Allow your mind to fully appreciate all that is there for you.
These steps will allow you to magnetize to your ‘More Beautiful World’ tribe. This community will be the seeds to this more beautiful world in our hearts we all know is possible. These roots are already growing and taking hold, so let’s keep dreaming together. We are manifesting our hearts desire and creating a new reality together!
Corrigan, Patrick. (September 4, 2014). Stigma as a Barrier to Mental Health Care. Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved from: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/stigma-as-a-barrier-to-mental-health-car.html
Mental Health America. Mental Health Information. Retrieved from: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-information
Eisenstein, Charles. (November 5, 2013). The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. North Atlantic Books.