Over the past few years there had been an enormous shift in how people think about mental health. More and more people are beginning to be open about taking care of their mental and emotional wellbeing but there is still a significant stigma attached to seeking counseling services. While there are many things that could act as obstacles for seeking services, there are two personal and cultural stigmas seem to be a major factor in an individual choosing whether or not to pursue services.
The first stigma that people have to overcome in order to pursue services is the idea that needing or wanting counseling means that person is “crazy”. The phrase “I feel crazy” is one that is often used but is extremely hard to define because those feelings are subjective to each person. What that phrase frequently refers to is feelings of anxiety and stress, feeling overwhelmed by life and circumstances. But what people often think of when they hear the word “crazy” is something along the lines of someone with hallucinations or multiple personalities. Many people don’t want to admit that they need help managing something and they don’t want others to see them as that stereotypical “crazy person.”
The second obstacle tends to come from an area of faith. Unfortunately, within many faith-based communities, the idea of seeking any kind of mental health services is portrayed as a lack of faith. Many people believe that their struggles are a result of faltering belief or a lack of conviction and that they wouldn’t have any kind of anxiety or depression if their faith was stronger. This particular stigma can be knowingly or unwittingly reinforced by family members and community members, often leaving an individual feeling confused and isolated and unsure of how to resolve their concerns.
What people struggling with these stigmas miss is that pursuing mental health services doesn’t mean either of those things—taking care of one’s mental health does not necessarily mean that they have a mental illness and seeking interpersonal support doesn’t mean that they’ve spurned spiritual support. Counseling provides individuals with the opportunity to explore thoughts and feelings that they may not have been able to explore previously. It allows them to enter an environment where, for a short time, they don’t have to worry about absolutely everything and they can focus entirely on the areas of their life that they want to improve.