Everyone knows that you are supposed to go in once a year to get a physical checkup, but why aren’t we required to get a mental health checkup? Mental health affects you on a day to day basis and can even cause there to be physical pain, so why isn’t it addressed as thoroughly as your physical health? It isn’t just me who asks this question. Below are a few articles that talk about this idea as well as my thoughts on the articles.
Why Don’t Americans Get Regular Mental Health Checkups? It’s Complicated.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. I will continue to say that over and over for the rest of my life because I think it is important for others to understand. Your mental health can even affect your physical health. Going to see someone to talk about your mental health at least once a year would be incredibly beneficial. Even if you don’t feel like you are having a tough time, it doesn’t mean there aren’t stresses in your life that you could talk through. Having checkups could also help those who feel too embarrassed or uncomfortable to go to therapy. I especially think this would be helpful for teens. Helping them to deal with all the stressors that come with growing up and giving them tools to ease their anxiety is an important thing to do. I am definitely an advocate for mental health checkups.
Students Can Now Miss School for a “Mental Health Day”
I’m actually in the midst of taking a mental health day right now. I think it is extremely important to give yourself a day on occasion where you can regroup and catch up on things that life has caused you to push aside. I don’t think it helps students to go to school when they’re having a day where they feel particularly anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed. If they go, they won’t take in the information being taught and they will only get more added to their plate. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and therefore I agree with students having excused absences for mental health days. It’s important to know when you need a break and schools should support students in those decisions. I hope that this becomes the case in all 50 states in the future.
Five Reasons Americans Fail to Get Mental Health Checkups
I really hate that there is such a stigma around mental health because it not only gets in the way of people going to therapy when they need it, but it also affects the coverage provided by insurance. Not everyone can afford to go see someone because you have to be clinically diagnosed before insurance will help you out. If mental health checkups were seen in the same way as physical checkups, this would be less of a problem. But because insurance doesn’t place the same weight on each type of health, people will continue not going to therapy. Stigma must be dealt with before we can move forward.
Mental health is important. We should make sure to pay attention to how we are feeling and act accordingly. Even if mental health checkups don’t become normal, checking in with yourself will remain important. Take a mental health day when you need one. Get help when you need it. Be kind to yourself.
I didn’t have a blog post idea today and then something happened that really made me mad. My friend was working today and was telling a coworker that her new medication was making her a little nauseous. Another one of her coworkers walked up and decided to insert himself in the conversation. He proceeded to tell my friend several things that made her angry (and subsequently myself and my roommates angry). I wanted to break down what he said and then talk in general about mental health medication stigma.
Things he said:
#1 Anxiety/OCD/etc. are “just personality traits.”
It really annoys me when people try and tell you that what you are dealing with in regard to your mental health is not valid. By saying this, he invalidates the seriousness of mental health problems. Mental health issues are not just personality traits. They are recognized as disorders by psychiatrists and medical professionals worldwide. It is something that is treated by mental health professionals. It isn’t something easily changed or something you can just move on from. A personality trait like getting nervous before a big event is not the same as having a generalized anxiety disorder. A personality trait like cleanliness is not the same thing as having OCD. Having a personality trait like pessimism is not the same thing as having depression. These disorders are not just personality traits and it fully invalidates someone’s struggles when you say that they are.
#2 “I know exactly how you feel.”
Unless you also struggle with a mental health disorder, this is false. This is another way to invalidate someone’s struggles. Even if you also struggle with anxiety and depression, you don’t know exactly how that person feels. It affects everyone differently. This is especially the wrong thing to say before you proceed to give your unwanted and unsubstantiated opinion on mental health in general.
#3 Medicine is just not the way to help. It basically is unnecessary for mental health disorders.
This is what the remainder of my post is going to discuss because my friend’s coworker is not the only person to think that mental health issues are not serious enough to require medication. People often try and tell you that if you exercised more, ate better, meditated, did yoga, or thought more positively you would be fine. That’s not how it works. Don’t you think that we would all do these things if it magically cured us? You can’t just think happy thoughts and get over depression or meditate and get over anxiety. There are a lot of different treatment options from medical professionals because it is an actual disorder. Therapy is an option and one I highly recommend. It has helped me a lot. But medication is also a valid option for people who are really struggling. Sometimes people feel like taking medication means that they have failed in some way or that they’re weak, but that isn’t true. It just means that you need some extra help in dealing with a disorder. When you take an Advil for a headache (physical health), you don’t have guilt, so you shouldn’t put guilt on yourself for taking medication that helps with your mental health.
It is always important to consult with a doctor or a therapist when you are thinking about medication. It’s important to make sure you are a good candidate for taking medicine to help. Once you and a medical professional have decided it is the right next step, it could take some time to figure out what medication works best. There isn’t one magic pill that is going to be an easy fix to your problem. There are side effects to medications and it is important to find the one that works the best in your body. But it is possible to find a medication that helps you a lot.
Saying it is unnecessary is an uneducated point of view. As our friend who is in pharmacy school who heard about this statement said, “there are decades of research and clinical studies that show how medications do what they do.” There are many medications that are proven to help with a variety of mental health disorders. No one should feel ashamed or judged for taking medication. If you feel the need to shame someone who does take medication, I would encourage you to put that energy into researching mental health disorders and research instead. I believe your opinion would change. Medication is not the only answer, but it is a valid option for those who are struggling.
Here are a couple of other articles that talk about mental health medication:
There is a lot of stigma that surrounds the idea of going to therapy. It has been lessening some in past years particularly when discussed by the younger generations, but the stigma still stands. Today, I want to talk about some of the common myths about therapy versus the realities and how I personally have found it helpful.
Myth 1: People who go to therapy have serious mental issues or are “crazy.”
Reality: There are a lot of reasons that people go to therapy. Is it true that there are people who are in therapy because they are struggling with a serious mental illness? Of course. But even these people aren’t “crazy.” Them suffering from a mental illness and going to see a therapist is just as normal as someone being diagnosed with a physical illness and going to a physician. They shouldn’t be labeled negatively. But to my main point, different circumstances lead different people to therapy. Sometimes, someone had something traumatic happen in their life. Sometimes, they are grieving the loss of a loved one. Sometimes, they are having work or relationship trouble. Sometimes, they just feel a little off-balance. Sometimes, it is just good to have someone to talk to who can give you more concrete advice than your friends or family. There are so many reasons that people go. I went because of my anxiety, but life happened while I was in therapy and now in addition to tackling my anxious thoughts, grief and the inability to control what happens to us have become topics of discussion. Therapists can help a lot of people on a variety of issues.
Myth 2: Going to therapy makes you seem weak.
Reality: I actually think going to therapy makes you incredibly strong. Allowing yourself to open up to someone and admit that you need a little help is difficult. Stepping into your therapist’s office for the first time takes a lot of guts. It also means you want to take of your mental health. People always talk about taking care of your body, but it is just as important to take care of your emotional and mental health. When we don’t address those problems, it can actually affect our physical health. So going to therapy literally makes you the opposite of weak. It makes you stronger in all aspects of your health.
Myth 3: Going to therapy is something you should be embarrassed to admit or talk about.
Reality: I firmly believe that talking about mental health issues as well as mental health support is incredibly important. That is one of the reasons I started this blog. Going to therapy is a difficult step to take. I went back and forth on whether or not I wanted to go when I first started. A lot of people who are struggling go back and forth. The worst thing that can happen for someone who is on the fence is for someone to make therapy seem like something that needs to be hidden or kept secret. That makes it seem like going is some taboo thing. I understand if you want to keep therapy private, but you shouldn’t actively be embarrassed about talking about it because there is nothing embarrassing about it. When someone asks you if you can get lunch with them and you can’t because you have a therapy appointment, be honest with them. Just saying, “Sorry, I can’t today. I have therapy.” can be powerful. Talking about it normally normalizes the idea for people and it no longer feels like something that should be talked about in hushed tones. I personally am extremely open with the fact that I go to therapy. My friends and coworkers know who I’m talking about when I bring up my therapist’s name. They don’t know the intimate details of what we talk about, but they know I go and that she has been helping me. Talking about it may help someone take the next step in reaching out to a therapist. You never know. So don’t make it seem like it’s embarrassing. Normalize it and hopefully one day the stigma will cease.
Myth 4: It’s a waste of money if you have friends and family to talk to.
Reality: I’ll speak personally for a moment and say that while I love my family and my friends, they cannot always look at the events unfolding in our lives from an outside and objective standpoint. When an event happens, like a death in the family, talking to the other people affected can be helpful, but the advice or support you get in return comes from a very personal and biased perspective. Talking through your feelings and really understanding what they are and how to cope with them, is something that a therapist can do better than a friend or family member. They are trained to help people. It is also sometimes hard for me to express my emotions to those around me. It is something I’m actively working on in therapy. Also, sometimes being able to talk to someone confidentially about issues you are having with friends and family, makes it easier to talk about. Talking to family and friends has the tendency to become a sticky situation if you are talking about people the other person knows. Often issues surrounding friends and family pass, and keeping those things confidential allows you to move on in the future without those things hanging in the air. It is a safe space to vent which allows you to process your emotions more freely. Don’t get me wrong, talking to family and friends is important and can be helpful, but that doesn’t mean a therapist isn’t necessary or an important extra level of support.
Myth 5: Therapists just tell you what to do so you can fix your problem and move on.
Reality: Therapy is helpful because the therapist guides you in a direction, but allows you to come to conclusions and revelations on your own. Therapy is work. Just like you work out in order to stay fit physically, you come to therapy to stay fit mentally and emotionally. You will not walk into a therapist’s office, state your problem, get handed a list of ways to fix it, and then leave. Therapists rarely tell you exactly what to do. Often they give suggestions, but it is up to you to take them up on it and usually, the suggestions don’t lead to your problems being solved immediately. To really get the most out of therapy, you need to be willing to put in the work. Also, be prepared to be in therapy as long as it is necessary. Some people go for a few weeks, some a couple months, while others have been in therapy for years. There is no right or wrong amount of time to be in therapy. That is at the discretion of you and your therapist. But no one is only in therapy for a couple sessions and then is able to walk out worry-free. It is important to be open with your therapist for them to provide the best support. The need for that type of support to continue is determined on a case by case basis. Find the right therapist for you, expect to put in the work, and be prepared to be there as long as it takes.
Therapy has been a very important thing for me. It has helped me a lot and continues to help me work through all sorts of life changes and issues that come up. I personally think that anyone can benefit from therapy, but don’t go until you are ready. When you are ready, be open to the process and really open up to your therapist. That open communication is what allows them to really help you. Also, don’t be ashamed that you are going, be proud of the fact that you are taking the next step to be the best version of yourself. Being happy and healthy is the goal, and therapy can be a useful step to getting there.