Merriam-Webster defines enigma as “something hard to understand or explain” and stigma as “a mark of shame or discredit.” I believe therapy’s stigma is quite the enigma. For some reason, mental healthcare is quite taboo and carries a burden of shame. Unfortunately, I often hear mental health professionals speak with discomfort when they admit (as if it was something to hide) they themselves have therapists. You would hope that we, who tell others it is okay to seek therapy, would feel comfortable “coming-out” as a client. I hope it is clear by now that I think EVERYONE can benefit from some therapy every-once-and-a-while, especially those who are therapists themselves. Most graduate counseling programs require their students attend counseling, if not they suggest it. It is understood that there is a benefit to understand what it is like to be on the other side of the couch. Besides this, I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t had a goal they are working towards that could benefit from an outside, unbiased listening ear. Actually, I have met people without goals, and those are usually hopeless, depressed individuals who have given up on the possibility of something better. I’m here to tell you that there is always room for improvement! I find it very confusing why someone choosing to work towards their goals and be happy should need to feel embarrassed for doing such a thing.
So WHY does this stigma exist? I believe it is related to this (incorrect) idea that counseling is only for “crazy” people (something I dive further into in this post). People believe clients must be “psychotic” (another definition which people also have the wrong idea about). But beyond this, I think counseling has evolved over the years. I think counselors have begun to think more systematically, realizing that there are a multitude of reasons someone behaves or feels the way they do, such as relationships with friends, family, or their environment. It is for this reason that I believe people have realized that not only “sick” people can benefit from therapy. However, because people are not willing to divulge that they go to counseling, the Hollywood and old-time version of counseling remains in people’s minds.
Every time that a celebrity or well-known person admits that they put an effort into taking care of their mental health, I believe the stigma gets chipped away at a little bit more. Most of the time, these admittances are also accompanied by the divulgence of a diagnosis, such as Bipolar Disorder (Mariah Carey, Demi Lovato, Pete Wentz, Catherine Zeta-Jones), PTSD (Elle King, Lady Gaga) or Anxiety (Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, Bella Hadid, Gina Rodriguez, Kendall Jenner, Emma Stone, Kim Kardashian West), Obessive-Compulsive Disorder (Camila Cabello, Amanda Seyfried), Borderline Personality Disorder (Pete Davidson), Substance Use Disorders (James Franco), Postpartum Depression (Chrissy Tiegen, Hayden Panatierre, Brooke Shields), Depression (Naomi Judd, Miranda Kerr, Kid Cudi, Jon Hamm, J.K. Rowling, Wayne Brady) and many more. Because of the stigma that surrounds these diagnoses, it takes courage to admit that you have been labeled with one. But, each time someone does, it feels just a little better for those average joe’s and jane’s that also have that diagnosis. They feel a little bit less crazy. It is for this reason that I do not want to belittle these steps towards de-stigmatizing. However, I do feel it is important to point out that you do not have to have a mental health diagnosis to attend therapy. I also feel the need to highlight that there are some “disorders” that have been more socially acceptable in the recent years, such as anxiety and depression, which is why you might see more celebrity names near those diagnoses. Unfortunately, others such as schizophrenia still carry many misconceptions that bring fear and stigma.
I could go on forever about this, but I would just like to thank anyone out there who has been honest and open about their mental health care. It is responsible, good for you, and nothing to be ashamed of. Thank you for trying to be happy!
Your listening ear,