By Pam Dewey • therapy misconceptions, mental health stigmas, destigmatizing mental health, mental health care, mental health therapy, letting go of mental health stigmas, therapy supports, helping people manage life crises, mental health care is self care • August 06, 2020
Talking to a mental health professional can be extremely beneficial, whether you’re suffering from a mental health issue, or you’re experiencing a difficult situation in your life. But getting help for your mental health is often stigmatized. Because of the stigma, people who could benefit from therapy often don’t seek it out.
Misconception: People who see therapists are “crazy”
One misconception around seeking therapy is that anyone who talks to a therapist is “crazy.” Calling someone with a mental health issue “crazy” is not only inaccurate, but it is also uninformed.
Mental health conditions like depression can be caused by your biochemistry, genetics or even environmental factors. These factors are beyond your control. Using the word “crazy” doesn’t consider the complexity of the issues people are facing.
“Words like ‘crazy’ have been used to stigmatize people who are facing mental health challenges,” says Fraser Director of Mental Health Aric Jensen. “The term is harmful and reductive. People who reach out for mental health care need and deserve our support, not our judgment. We know mental health challenges are incredibly common, especially during these trying times.”
Misconception: Everyone in therapy is depressed
People also think that everyone in therapy has a condition like anxiety or depression. While people certainly pursue treatment for these reasons, you may also start therapy because you’re experiencing a serious life event like a divorce, health issues, career concerns, family conflict or the death of a loved one. Any of these issues is difficult to cope with, and it’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed. Seeing a therapist can provide an outlet for your feelings. A therapist can also teach you skills that make you better equipped to address challenging situations.
Misconception: Going to a therapist means you’re weak
Another misconception that people who go to therapy have “failed” or are weak. One in five people experiences a mental health issue. The U.S. population is about 329 million people, which means about 65.8 million Americans will face a mental health challenge at some point in their lives. Admitting that you need help takes strength. Attending therapy also forces you to be very honest with yourself and your therapist. It can be challenging, emotional work. There is nothing weak about working to improve yourself.
Misconception: You can stop feeling depressed, if you really want to
There is also the dangerous misconception that someone with a mental health concern can “snap out of it.” Mental health conditions like depression, anxiety or PTSD are serious medical conditions. Different types of anxiety can cause fear of social situations, inability to concentrate, difficulty with sleeping and even heart palpitations. While you can treat these conditions, you can’t just stop yourself from experiencing the symptoms.
“Suggesting that someone with depression should just try to be happier is not helpful,” says Jensen. “Depression affects your body. Therapy, and sometimes medication, are often needed to manage the symptoms.”
A trained mental health professional will listen, evaluate your situation and help you find the best way to move forward.