Our Guest Wellness Editor for March, Uli Beutter Cohen of everbliss, is back this week with more expert insights on mental health. Uli connected us with Kate L. Rosenblatt, MA, LPC, a clinical therapist, health coach and medical researcher, to talk more about destigmatizing mental health conditions. Below, Ms. Rosenblatt shares staggering statistics to support increased mental health awareness, plus five tips to help us all spread the movement.
Growing up, one of my favorite childhood stories was Winnie-the-Pooh. Out of all the characters, I always gravitated towards Eeyore. Perhaps that was because he was a donkey, and I loved horses and anything resembling horses. And perhaps it was also because I felt compassion for Eeyore. While his characteristically gloomy demeanor stood out from his crowd of cheerful friends, Winnie and company fully embraced him. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world this loving and accepting?
An important and undeniable takeaway from this classic story is that Eeyore’s character creatively demonstrates to readers that all feelings are okay. In fact, happiness and sadness and everything in between are normal; they actually constitute our mental health. We can learn a lot from the Hundred Acre Wood community, because when we do not embrace, support, and address mental health struggles, we run the risk of creating devastating circumstances.
So why exactly can it be so difficult to accept and take care of our issues and encourage others to take care of theirs? The most common answer is stigma. Stigma means we see someone negatively due to a perceived disadvantage or stereotype. When it comes to personal struggles, we tend to send the wrong message to others and to ourselves: just deal with it. Many think that it’s okay to wait things out and to only get help when feelings have become unbearable. Why? Because our society tends to classify having mental health issues as a weakness. “She had a breakdown.” “He lost it.” “That person should be on meds.” Imagine hearing these negative messages on repeat; how could we not internalize those thoughts?
Stigma causes a vicious cycle. Social studies show that the more you feel stigmatized, the less likely you are to seek support services. This means that the more you feel like an outsider, the less likely you are to get help. The emotional impact from not seeking treatment or preventive support is felt deeply, and the economic repercussions are equally devastating.
Globally, mental health conditions will cost more than $30 trillion dollars by 2030. Mental health issues are public health issues. So what are we doing about this? It is up to us to demand better solutions and to find a new way to talk about mental health.
Luckily, political figures like First Lady Michelle Obama and celebrities like Lena Dunham are advocating for an increased understanding, normalization, and overall focus on our mental health. Organizations like Change Direction encourage us to embrace our emotional hardships as part of our common humanity. Digital wellness centers are becoming increasingly available, like the everbliss app that connects real people with real mental health experts in real time.
While we still have a long way to go, a lot of great work has begun. And now, it's our responsibility to continue creating a culture of support and understanding, with values similar to those found within the Hundred Acre Wood society. Together we can work to reduce the stigma. As always, education and prevention are the keys.
Here are five specific steps to spread mental health awareness:
- Find your community: Projects like Let’s Talk About Mental Health make it easier to find a likeminded community of people who understand and relate.
- Get familiar: The more you know, the less intimidating the topic. It doesn’t have to be dry or complicated, either. Take a look at blogs like Hyperbole And A Half.
- Check in with yourself: Become more mindful of your own feelings. You can start by setting a daily reminder to simply stop and ask yourself, "How am I feeling right now?" Name that emotion, and then ask yourself, "What do I need right now?"
- Talk to an expert: Talk to a trained expert, not just your friends. Contact your insurance for a list of providers in your network or download an app like everbliss to connect with a therapist in real time from your couch, not theirs.
- Begin anywhere: Is feeling overwhelmed stopping you from getting support? Organize your mental health priorities. List five things that you want to address, then pick one to focus on now. Starting anywhere without a plan is a-okay. That’s what experts are for.
Kate L. Rosenblatt, MA, LPC is a clinical therapist and health coach. In addition to working with her private clients, Kate is a researcher and advisor for the medical community.
p.s. Did you catch our interview with Uli Beutter Cohen, where she explains the relationship between mental health awareness and human connection?