This is Mental Illness Awareness Week (#MIAW2016). I can’t speak about how this week gained its notoriety. However, what I wanted to do is speak a bit about therapy. I’ve attended sessions before. Chances are, I may go again. There’s an awful stigma surrounding it that has to change. I’ve heard people make ignorant comments about it. I also know that others have loved ones who are downright abusive when they dare discuss their weaknesses. Either way, this subject resonates with me.
I want people to think: When you mock people who choose to go to therapy, you’re not demonstrating how resilient you are. You’re showing me that you don’t understand how human beings function. You’re demonstrating your insensitivity.
Just for the record: NO, a person doesn’t have to have a serious illness like schizophrenia to see a therapist. No, her decision to seek help doesn’t mean that she’s an idiot. Nothing is wrong with someone trying to find solutions to their problems by talking to somebody. People have the right to get help when they need it.
In sessions with a good therapist, there’s a sense of freedom. You should feel safe. Ideally you’ll be sharing your thoughts with someone who’s unbiased and willing to listen to your problems. In return, this person will offer you guidance. They won’t try to dictate solutions to your challenges, but help you recognize them. (I know that opinions on therapeutic outcomes vary, but these are mine.)
Let’s talk some more about reactions to mental health intervention. What would you say if a friend tells you she wants to go to counselling? If she decides to share her reasons, I hope you listen. Be open minded. A person who recognizes that they need this kind of help isn’t a fool. They’re vulnerable and brave.
On the other hand, what if someone close to you suggests that you’re the one who needs counselling? I know that you might be surprised at first. You might even be angry. But if this person truly cares about you, I hope that you won’t dismiss them or be judgemental. People who know us well can have an uncanny habit of noticing things that we may overlook. Perhaps your friends have seen changes in you. Maybe you haven’t been yourself in a while.
In the end, your mind matters.
It’s a part of you. It affects the way that you function every second of every day of your life. If you doubt what I’m saying, consider this well-worn analogy: Why is it so easy to seek medical attention if we break a bone? Meanwhile, if we feel a sadness or anger that doesn’t leave, some of us are told to do nothing, or think we’re supposed to just magically push it away.
Lastly, I think we should also pay attention to what I call behaviour blocks. (I don’t know what the proper term is.) I’ve seen situations where Person A’s attitude may affects the way he interacts with Person B. Person B may think Person A is being unreasonable. Maybe he is or isn’t. But please. Don’t be so committed to being right that you won’t listen to another person when they try to point out how they feel around you. Be open to intervention—especially if it will change your relationship for the better.
We are more than mere flesh and bone. Our thoughts really, truly have the power to hurt or heal ourselves–and others.
Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash.