As divisive as the gun debate can be, people on both sides of the aisle can usually find common ground on one idea: individuals with mental health issues shouldn’t be afforded access to guns.
Sadly, this is usually where the conversation about mental health in America prematurely ends. After these laws are enacted, what do we do with these people? There is rarely any dialogue or follow up on how we can improve their quality of life — rather let’s just create tougher laws and walk away, leaving them how we found them. It’s ingrained in our society to view mental health as this taboo, untouchable subject.
Seeking professional help can reflexively define a person as crazy if their peers find out. Imagine this still happening in 2018. How is seeing a psychiatrist for anxiety any different from seeing a cardiologist for chest pain? It’s time the hazy stigma of mental health is not only lifted from society but embraced as an important part of overall well-being.
It has always seemed counterintuitive to me that reaching out for help to deal with mental health issues was looked down upon. These individuals are struggling with something internally, and society casts judgment if they seek professional help. Shouldn’t we be encouraging them to get help instead of constructing a path riddled with stigma all the way to the psychiatrist’s office? Make no distinction; if someone feels unwell, they should seek medical intervention whether their symptoms be physical or psychological.
Furthermore, I adamantly believe that like physical wellness exams, we should be encouraged to periodically speak with medical professionals to check our mental health. Students shouldn’t have to feel worried about being judged if they’re seen stepping into a counselor’s office if they’re having a bad day, just like adults shouldn’t hesitate going into the office if they just need someone to talk to.
As crazy as that sounds, think about all the stress and pressure we internalize on a daily basis. Most of us find that talking about our problems to friends or loved ones is often cathartic to unburden ourselves of that stress. Wouldn’t speaking with a trained professional who can provide us with tools to cope with our troubles be even more effective? Access to health care is a major barrier for many Americans, but by shifting the spotlight onto mental health, it will put more pressure for the necessary funding and assistance to help those in need.
The biggest obstacle the field faces is how to shape mental health care into something not just acceptable, but necessary. There’s no definitive solution to overcoming our biases, but there are important stepping stones currently being built to overcome this barrier by some who may not even realize it.
Today’s trends are heavily rooted from the most popular and influential celebrities as we look to them to see what’s “cool” and “allowed” in society. People like Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love who shared his experience with getting help for his panic attacks, or movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who opened up about his battle with depression should be commended for going public with their struggles when it was an unfamiliar thing for society to hear. It’s the courage they possess that can empower others to come forward with their stories to turn mental health care from something that’s looked down upon into something that’s sought after without embarrassment or recourse.
Brandon Jacobi is a medical student.
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