Sometimes in social conversations, I feel uncomfortable hearing people using many different labels to diagnose people whom they encounter, especially when those “diagnoses” are inaccurate. These actions can be harmful to people who are struggling with a mental health problem, and these inaccurate comments can perpetuate stigma and discrimination in the society as a whole.
There are different settings in which the use of diagnostic labels can be helpful, such as in hospitals, clinics, classrooms, textbooks, etc. But in social settings, using these labels too often can have the effect of elevating the person who diagnoses, while putting down the person who is given a label. This can be discriminatory.
I think it’s really important to de-stigmatize mental illness in any form. I think there’s a lot of people that are carrying around guilt and shame and baggage… that doesn’t matter. Everybody is going through something, everybody has had something that they’ve had to overcome. (Mary Lambert)
At the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in this country. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction. (Michelle Obama)
We know that mental illness is not something that happens to other people. It touches us all. Why then is mental illness met with so much misunderstanding and fear? (Tipper Gore)
Sometimes, people feel afraid of being stigmatized, and as a result, they may refuse to see a psychotherapist or seek help from a mental health professional. I find individuals who are willing to see a psychotherapist courageous because they have self-awareness: they realize that they need help to get through some problems in a positive manner, or to enhance their overall health. It takes bravery and humility to acknowledge a problem and to seek help.
Don’t let your ego, job position, social status, wealth, or other factors hinder you from living a better, happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life. We only live once!
Avoid using the term “crazy”?
Certain words, such as “crazy,” are sometimes used in an insulting or disrespectful manner. We do have to be careful to use respectful language. I don’t think that “crazy” has to be avoided entirely though—I like to reserve the word, for example, to say something like “Wow, so many things have happened in the past few days—what a crazy week I’ve had!” Some types of language, or particular words, could sometimes be “reclaimed” as harmless, neutral, or playful. But in the meantime, we must be careful not to use language in an insensitive or hurtful manner.
Language usage is a very specific issue. In a much more general way, it is with good education and treating people with mental health problems kindly, fairly, and compassionately that we can really help de-stigmatize mental health issues!
Counselling can’t be rushed
It is a major trend nowadays for counsellors to offer short-term therapy. But I am a bigger fan of long-term therapy styles.
We all desire health care which is cost effective and efficient, in our fast-paced modern lifestyle. Many people have to be on a waiting list for a long time before they can see a counsellor—short-term therapy styles allow more people to be helped more quickly.
I also understand that in this day and age, solution focused brief therapy is the trend. I appreciate brief therapy too, and I agree that many people would benefit from 5, 8, or 10 sessions of counselling, with problems such as grief, mild phobia, or seasonal depression. Many people would benefit from even just one counselling session, especially with a very good therapist!
But in many cases, the problems leading to therapy have been present for many years, or sometimes for an entire lifetime. In these cases, it will often take more than a few sessions of counselling to see resolution of entrenched, long-term problems.
Positive change involves many factors. Time is a big factor. The rapport between the therapist and the client is another important factor. The client’s awareness, readiness for change, hard work, and regular practice play a very, very pivotal role. Social support in the client’s life is also of paramount importance.
I think there are no short cuts in life…. But hard work, practice, persistence, support, and hope can help us move forward…
Psychotherapy is like learning a new language. Most people cannot master a new language, speaking and writing fluently, after just 10 hours of lessons! English and Mandarin are my second and third languages—I know that it requires constant practice, frequent interactions with native speakers, extreme hard work, and the opportunities to teach the languages, to be able to come across as a native English or Mandarin speaker. And I am still learning! The learning process does not ever end! To wish that you could “live your life fluently” after just having 10 hours of counselling sessions is not realistic, if you have struggled with some serious problems for almost your entire life!
Promises of quick fixes and magical cures are unsustainable and hollow. (Sameet Kumar)
Resistance to change
Sometimes, in psychotherapy or in other areas of life, we may be taught a new skill, but we may say, “I don’t want to do that.” Sometimes, this refusal could be said directly to the teacher or therapist, while at other times, it is conveyed indirectly in facial expression or body language.
It’s an interesting dynamic.
Sometimes we are not ready to change yet. There may be awareness of struggles or problems in life, which lead to seeking help, but then sometimes we are not yet fully prepared to take action and make changes in life. Sometimes, we may prefer the therapist, or teacher, or trainer, or coach, to do all the work. Or sometimes, we may feel really stuck, tired, or hopeless…
In cases like these, we may assume that no change would happen, and that there would be no point continuing the work.
This futility can occur in the setting of short-term therapy.
But if it is long-term therapy, you can see improvements—maybe some very small positive changes—develop gradually over time! The benefit is from the stable, healthy therapeutic relationship, regular, structured appointments, psychoeducation, reflection, insights, or encouragement and acceptance from the therapist. We can see “baby steps” forward in life, even when we are still hearing language such as “I don’t want to do that!”
Sometimes we are already making positive change, without even acknowledging it! Over time in therapy, we may start to reflect. We may start to develop more self-awareness. We may start to think about trying those skills that the therapist talked about. Sometimes, maybe just a few steps forward, before taking action and practicing regularly.
Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow. (Plato)
This is for the client, for the psychotherapist, for the client’s family and friends, for the community.
Be patient. Befriend time. Life is not a race.
One awesome thing about Eeyore is that even though he is basically clinically depressed, he still gets invited to participate in adventures and shenanigans with all of his friends. What is amazing is that they never expect him to pretend to feel happy, they never leave him behind or ask him to change, they just show him love. (Author Unknown)
Affirmation: I enrich my life when I acquire knowledge about mental health and develop compassion for myself and others.