As much as we encourage loving and taking care of ourselves in today’s society, there is still a stigma with seeking mental health care.
We promote socializing, exercising, eating well, and sleeping well to take care of bodies and minds.
But when our mental health needs some outside care, many of us look at it as a weakness, and we hesitate to get mental health support because we feel shame.
What is Shame?
Shame is a painful emotion caused by an awareness of guilt due to something we perceive as a shortcoming, something that we have done, or something that we have experienced that we deem as improper.
Shame doesn’t always come from within. It can be pressed on people by family, friends, or society (especially online and in social media). Some people are brought up to believe that they are doing a dishonor to their family by seeking outside help. Especially in cases of trauma, children are taught from a young age to not share what has been experienced.
Society can be tough on those that need mental health support. It is common to be shamed into believing that the need for mental health care should never arise. This often leads to feelings of worthlessness and guilt, which drives an avoidance of mental health care.
The absolute truth is that there is NO shame in taking care of ourselves!
How can we overcome the stigma?
Steps to Overcome Shame and Seek Help
Knowledge is the answer to crushing any feelings of shame in seeking mental health support.
There is No Normal
Human beings base their perception of normal on what they see and experience in others in life. But, when it comes to mental health, our vision is not always clear-cut. It is complex.
Each of us constantly deals with some form of mental struggle. Sometimes we need help, and sometimes we do not.
It is estimated that over 50% of all people are diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. Poor mental health, however, is not the same as mental illness. Mental health can change over time.
People can struggle with poor mental health for many reasons (We are ALL targets!), for example, working long hours, financial problems, family difficulties, and poor physical health.
Mental illness, however, can extend from prolonged poor mental health (i.e., stress, feelings of loneliness or isolation, etc.), as well as a history of abuse, trauma, chemical or biological factors, and alcohol or drug abuse. “Normal” does not exist.
Finding Strength in Admission
It is a lie that seeking outside help for mental health is a weakness.
- There is strength in acknowledging the need for help. Strength is found when we do not equate our value as a person with our mental health struggles or illness.
- Strength is found in seeking our full potential – and reaching out for the support that we might need to obtain it. Personal strength is found in ignoring the stigmas.
- Strength is knowing our worth and honoring ourselves despite any false standards that either you or society holds.
Ignore Isolation and Trust Help
When we need help but feel ashamed, it is a common human reaction to want to isolate and to distrust help. Isolation is counter-intuitive, though. It leads to a higher risk of depression and other mental conditions, as well as physical health issues. As we open ourselves up to others, we no longer feel as if we must “do it alone” – we break those chains.
We become more self-aware as we talk about our feelings. We address underlying issues, and we learn effective ways of coping.
How do you trust a counselor when you don’t trust anyone else?
Caution is understandable. Know that what is said in counseling, stays in counseling. Start the conversation with your counselor by explaining that you are having trouble trusting. To obtain the best results – be clear about what you are feeling, and this may feel vulnerable. Consider your relationship with your counselor an alliance – one that is formed for your benefit.
Take Care of You – Get the Help that You Need
Do you feel you have dishonored yourself, or do you feel ridiculous for going to the doctor when your physical body falls ill? No, and nor should you when you seek mental health support. Honor yourself and get the help that you need.
You are always worth it!
We are here to help
Western Tidewater Community Services Board is focused on giving the individuals we serve the necessary skills, confidence, and well-being to achieve what they define as their purpose in life.
We are a Community of Hope.
We’re here and ready to connect 24/7. We make access to professional, high-quality, wrap-around care convenient and easy – including Same Day Access for crisis intervention.