Lady Gaga recently announced that she took a 3 year break from recording to deal with her mental health. Good for her – what a wise thing to do. In sharing her struggles publicly, she is helping to break the stigma of managing our mental health issues. It is an illusion or a false hope to believe that we will go through life without mental suffering. Approximately 43.8 million or 18.5% of people experience mental illness in a given year. Dealing with mental health issues takes courage and should not be ensconced in shame. Mental healthiness is the foundation of our state of being and this felt-sense of self affects relationships with our children, spouses, families and communities. I am not interested in why this stigma pervades our society, but as a mental health provider, I am interested in how we can change our beliefs about dealing with the inevitable challenges we all face when managing our complex mental health.
Some ideas to consider…
1. If you go to therapy, share it with your friends. So many times in session my patients will share that once they opened up about going to therapy, they were shocked at how many of their friends love therapy.
2. Share your mental health struggles with your friends and loved ones, and let them know how you overcame them, whether it was through therapy, meditation, prayer, community, exercise and so forth. Inspire people through your own personal growth.
3. Don’t throw out labels such as, “She’s so Borderline” or “He’s Bipolar.” Yes, categories can be important when figuring out how to treat certain psychological challenges, but using them in a shaming way further stigmatizes mental health issues.
4. Recognize that mental health issues fall on a spectrum and dealing with them can be very painful. Be as compassionate to friends and family members who are facing mental health challenges as you would to a person who has diabetes or cancer. No shaming or blaming.
5. Make a shift in perception and ponder how dealing with mental health issues can actually lead to greater self-actualization. Create a restorative narrative and find meaning from dealing with mental health issues.
6. Lastly, even if you don’t have a mental illness, embrace that it is important to have good mental hygiene habits such as: know how to soothe your emotional self, have self-awareness, learn to control impulses, be mindful of automatic reactions, be authentic, set boundaries, be open and flexible, and have empathy and compassion for others.
So let’s change the conversation and talk about supporting, treating and enhancing our mental health. Because with mental healthiness we can thrive, flourish, and face life’s complexities with resilience.