Opinion: It’s time to break down the therapy stigma
“Look! A crazy person!” someone screams as a student exits a therapist’s office. “Quick! Quarantine them before we all catch depression.”
Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, it is.
But for some strange reason, therapy holds the same stigma it did back in the ‘60s. People still feel ashamed to be taking responsibility for their emotions and actively trying to be happy and healthy.
Yet, in institutions across the globe, students are experiencing higher levels of mental illness.
According to a 2009 study by the American College Health Association, 60 per cent of Canadian and American students reported feeling hopeless, 43 per cent said they were depressed beyond the ability to function, and nine per cent considered suicide within the 12 months prior to the survey.
Even closer to home, a recent U of C study showed the rate of severe mental illness, such as psychotic disorders, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders, have tripled in the last decade.
Doctors across North America know what’s happening: we’re getting more stressed, and because of that, more sick.
A groundbreaking Harvard study showed that a staggering increase in the occurrence of a litany of ailments – obesity, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, HIV, chronic and acute pulmonary disease, insomnia and chronic fatigue syndrome – all had tie-backs to mental health.
They’ve also proven treating emotional woes helps heal physical complaints.
When people break their arms, they go to the doctor to cast it. However, when something’s wrong emotionally, we feel as though it’s not legitimate enough to seek help?
It’s terrifying, archaic, and pervasively traumatic.
Perhaps education is the key. As someone who has a therapist and loves every minute of it, I can personally tell you it’s not as scary as you think. You choose what to talk about. I also choose who knows that I have sought counseling.
Most importantly, being in therapy doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. Most people who seek therapy often aren’t seriously ill, but going through a hard life-transition, are stressed, or need advice about relationships, work or family.
Therapy is not a measure of sanity or normality, but simply time to sit down and talk about things guiltlessly, without the worry of bias, baggage or emotional reactions that you would get with friends.
The World Health Organization says that one-quarter of people in hospitals and emergency rooms found themselves there for physical health problems, but have a psychological problem at the root of it all. Most of these are issues – like stress, anxiety and depression – are eased by, or in conjunction with, therapy.
As a society we’re so stuck on keeping our emotions under wraps that we’re causing an epidemic of physical illness manifesting from the fact that we can’t sit down for an hour a week and talk about ourselves.
No one chooses mental illness, but the choice between simply coping, or healing is in your hands.