By: Jason Otwell
In my 20 plus years as a therapist, I have had a number of family and friends reach out to me for help in responding to a mental health issue with someone close to them. I feel so honored that they would share their struggles with me and love being able to help them find a therapist, facility, or other resources. While their situation can be complicated or confusing, I know that help is available and they have taken a great first step in finding it.
In talking to them, there is one thing that breaks my heart every time. In my conversations I often hear about their shame or fear of what having a mental health issue means. It’s as if they or their family member have done something wrong. They want to make sure I’ll keep their struggle a secret as they don’t want anyone else to know. While I respect their wishes, I would love for them to know that:
Having a mental health issue is NOTHING to be embarrassed about.
There are people in their neighborhood, work, school, and church that have the EXACT SAME struggle.
The vast majority of people with mental illness are NOT prone to violence or addictions or chronic problems in the future.
While we are all influenced by our environment, mental health problems are NOT caused by poor parenting, character flaws, or a lack of spiritual connection/belief.
And mental health problems are VERY treatable.
We are a relational people. During times of stress or struggle, our need for support and community is vital. Let us not be ashamed to pursue such and even more importantly, let us be an open, safe, understanding, compassionate space for our friends and family to come to.