Recently I was at an event, and when I introduced myself and what I do, quickly the topic of mental health came up. The conversation went something like this:
“I am concerned that all bad behavior is now written off as a mental health illness,” stated someone.
“I worry about the opposite,” I responded.
“What do you mean?” someone asked.
“I am more concerned that we assume anyone with a mental health illness is bad.”
The stigma is real. Our main understanding and knowledge of what mental illness looks like comes from media. Often the image we see of mental illness is someone hurting themselves or hurting others on the news. Soon we begin to think that anyone with a mental illness (especially PTSD, Bipolar, or Schizophrenia) is dangerous. Then when we, or someone we love, start to have symptoms of a mental illness we begin to worry and think, “I hope I’m not crazy”; that negative stigmatizing word, “crazy” like Jack Nicholson infamous picture from The Shining.
The truth is, most people in America have a mental illness. Mental illness does not discriminate. It crosses all demographic and ethnic boundaries. Here are some recent statistics from the CDC:
So what do these statistics mean?
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
It means that mental illness doesn’t always, and most likely rarely, looks like Jack Nicholson in The Shinning. It does, however, looks like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kendall Jenner, Adele, Demi Lovato, Kristen Bell, Prince Harry, and many more. It may even look like the reflection you see in the mirror.
The biggest challenge with the negative stigma is that it prevents many from getting help. As the fear of mental illness grows, seeking treatment diminishes. Yet, most mental health illnesses are treatable which means many suffer needlessly.
If you are suffering, ask for help. There are solutions available that just might work for you.
*Thank you to NAMI for the cure stigma picture.
There is something about this picture that speaks to me. I see a person who knows who she is, and can accept herself including her imperfections. What if we could all be that way? What if we could all accept ourselves and love ourselves unconditionally? What if we could quit beating ourselves up for all the mistakes we have made? What if we could stop obsessing over just one bad move we’ve made? What if we can stop judging ourselves and start treating ourselves like we treat our best friend? Can you imagine the positive difference that would make? Not only for us, but also for those around us.
Spirituality is a key part to our mental and emotional health. Many people find their spirituality in different areas. I find mine through my Christian faith. Having not only been raised in the church, but also the daughter of the church pastor, also known as a “PK” (Pastor’s Kid), I embrace my spirituality through my Christian beliefs.
Although I myself am a Christian, I have worked with people from all spectrums of faith, religion and spirituality, including self-identified atheists. In my professional experience, I have found religion and spirituality to be key aspects for mental wholeness. Why is that?
Well, let me first break down the difference between religion and spirituality.
Religion is a set of rituals, rules and expectations. Hawkins (2005) defined religion as “an outer expression of faith or behavior.” Religion frames our value systems.
Spirituality is the inner peace and feelings that you are connected with someone or something greater than yourself. It gives your life purpose and meaning. Hawkins (2005) defined spirituality as “an inner journey…an experience that takes us to a higher level of function.” Spirituality encompasses love, compassion, hope and/or forgiveness.
Religion and spirituality can exist separately. However, I am a believer that the two together form a stronger base. For me, my religion forms my values and personal belief system. My spirituality drives my spirit and inner peace, empowering me to love others, have compassion and forgiveness for myself and others, and to have hope for tomorrow.
For decades, going all the way back to Freud, psychotherapists believed that religion and spirituality was a symptom of mental illness. Today, however, that is drastically changing. Read More
Depression and anxiety disorders are prevalent worldwide. Globally, approximately 121 million people are affected by depression (Sanchez-Villegas, Toledo, de Irala, Ruiz-Canela, Pla-Vidal et al., 2012). According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 1 out of 20 Americans over the age of 12 report symptoms of depression.
In recent years I have seen a growing interest in the connection between nutrition and depression. There is a growing body of scientific research that shows eating a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables may reduce symptoms of mental illnesses. Read More
In October of this year I watched for two weeks with anguish and concern the consuming fires sweeping through Northern California, taking homes, incomes, and even lives. This past week I watched again as fires destroyed parts of Ventura County, Los Angeles, and San Diego. As a Native Californian, I have never seen such devastation from fires. As I watched the homes burn, I thought of the many who are now without homes this Christmas. I was also reminded of how my father lost his family farm from a tornado when he was a young man. Read More
Hold up an empty picture frame and look through it. What do you see? Now move it to the right or left. Do you see something different? Now turn around and look behind you. What new thing are you now focusing on? How did the different frames make you feel?
Our feelings start with our thoughts. If you think someone is good looking and smells good, you may feel attracted to him. If you think that same person is rude and dirty, your feelings for him will most likely change. Anxiety is no different. Anxiety starts with a thought. A scary thought. A negative “what if” futuristic thought: Read More
As we prepare to get together with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving, feelings of anxiety and fear is normal. Being with family is not always a peaceful happy time for some.
It may mean having to sit with someone who you would rather not be with;
Fear of criticism, judgement, and lack of acceptance starts to kick in.
Maybe, you are going to be with someone whom you have a fractured relationship with and you are trying to heal it;
Fear of another family argument can cause increased anxiety and even depression.
Maybe you are confused as to why a family member or friend always ends up getting angry at something you said, and you feel like you are walking on eggshells every time you see them;
Fear of being blamed for “someone else’s problems” creeps up.
To help you reduce the risk of a painful and stressful family get-together, here are three communication mistakes to avoid: Read More
As a child, I remember my mother teaching me this song:
The foolish man built his house upon the sand. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. The foolish man built his house upon the sand, and the rain came tumbling down.
The rain came down, and the floods came up. The rain came down, and the floods came up. The rain came down, and the floods came up, and the house on the sand went “splat!” (clapping our hands as loud as we could as we would sing “splat”. This was my favorite part of the song!)
The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock, and the rain came tumbling down.
The rain came down, and the floods came up. The rain came down, and the floods came up. The rain came down, and the floods came up, and the house on the rock stood firm!
I had forgotten about that song, until last year when I attended a training on Therapeutic Mindfulness. The speakers included Dr. Ronald D. Siegel, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School. I was surprised to hear, for the first time, that pursuing self-esteem does not work and can actually be dangerous. Read More