Silent Stuggles: Breaking the Silence on Mental Health Challenges
The Covid pandemic lockdowns highlighted what many of us have neglected and been mostly silent about- our mental health. Would you agree? The busyness of our lives and the complexity of mental health make it easy for us to not pay attention and throw in a mental health challenge or an illness and the situation can get quite precarious.
Opening up about our mental health experiences is difficult and many of us silently struggle without seeking support. While there are several reasons why some people struggle silently, the fear due to stigma and discrimination is often one of the most common barriers to seeking help. To cope well and manage better, support is essential. And while intimidating, appropriate expression and sharing of such struggles can be incredibly helpful and healing, not only to ourselves but everyone around us.
Despite the improved global awareness over the years, there’s still fear around mental health matters. This contributes to the difficulty in talking about challenging experiences. Individuals are, consciously or unconsciously, at times made to feel ashamed, embarrassed or at fault of their mental health struggles. Some are viewed as “dangerous” and, at times, mistreated and abused by service providers who lack empathy.
Sometimes mistreatments even come from family members. There is often judgment, exclusion, and rejection towards people who disclose such challenges and illnesses, adding to stigma, discrimination, misperceptions and misunderstandings. As a result, there remains fear in opening up and seeking help when we are struggling.
What feelings do you have about opening up about mental health?
Support is essential for mental health, but the availability differs depending on the resources
available in various communities. Limited mental health support adds to the challenge of not seeking help. Social media platforms have become a source of support for many, especially during the pandemic lockdowns as online platforms offer a way to stay connected. This can, however, backfire as social media can also be the reason for someone to suffer silently, as overuse and unchecked online presence can lead to social isolation and feelings of loneliness.
What support do you have for your mental health?
It takes courage to break one’s silence and to open up to others about our mental health challenges and experiences. It is normal to have mixed emotions about this. Anticipate doubts and internal voices telling you to stay silent but ask yourself what good it will do if you continue to keep silent. How fair is it to struggle silently? Remind yourself that there are others out there who feel similar as you and that talking about your experiences not only allows you to begin to cope better but can also encourage others to break their silence.
Coping with mental health struggles is better achieved when we open up and seek support. Stigma and discrimination will lessen when more people talk about their experiences. You don’t have to be alone as you break your silence. Look at what is available in your area for mental health support, and if need be, explore what is available online, whatever might best fit your needs. Since there are many kinds of support, explore and ask questions so that you can make an informed choice on your chosen support.
Consider these things in choosing your support:
Family and Friends vs. Professionals
Family and friends can offer support but they can also be barriers at times. Consider the quality of your interactions with them and decide if you are feeling helped. Be open to seeking professional help to support you. Sometimes, this is needed. Talk with a few and choose one who asks about your challenges and experiences. Sometimes, family members are brought in to help with more understanding of the challenge.
Listening vs. Preaching
There is a great deal of evidence about listening and its effect on mental health. Ask yourself if your support is listening or does it feel like you’re getting preached at. The latter may not be an effective support. Choose one who listens and guides.
Experience and trainings as qualifications
While there are many trained professionals offering mental health support, research and inquire about their background and experiences. If you have a choice, choose someone with a depth of experience dealing with mental health challenges. You have the right to choose a support that can go as deep as you need without feeling judged.
Mental health challenges and illnesses are as normal as physical health challenges and in the very same way we cope better when we are supported. There is a need to break our silence for us to be supported. Increased awareness of the barriers is important to encourage help-seeking behaviors. Exploring different strategies to help break down the stigma and discrimination is important.
Finding a support system that offers a safe space and understanding is a must. This can be your friends and family, local community groups, mental health hotlines and websites, online groups, and mental health care providers, including therapists, counselors, doctors, and even professional coaches who specialize in mental health and provide holistic care.
If you or someone you know is struggling, look for the most appropriate support available and choose one that you feel in alignment with your needs.
Be well. Choose wellness for life!
About The Author