Welcome to Everybody Has Issues, a progressive weekly column written by mental health professionals and others dedicated to educating our communities about mental health topics. Our overall goal is to help people with mental illness overcome stigma and seek help so they can manage their disorder vs being controlled by it.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) defines mental illness as being “characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.” The American Psychiatric Association has identified 300+ disorders in their latest diagnostic manual.
The DHHS estimates that “only about 17% of U.S adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health.” Countless others are in relationship with someone who has a disorder. So, it is for good reason this column is called, “Everybody Has Issues.”
Over time, we will write about specific disorders, treatments, other forms of dysfunction, and resources for help. We will also focus on adaptability, positive habits, and the importance of healthy relationships as protective factors in maintaining mental health. But first we must address stigma, as it is cited as a reason roughly half of affected people fail to seek treatment. Inaccurate information contributes to it, as well as fear.
Stigma also involves shame. Brené Brown Ph.D. defines shame as, “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and, therefore, unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” We inflict shame on people with disorders when we put their disorder before the person. Statements like, “That’s my Schizo brother,” is shaming; whereas, the statement, “My brother has Schizophrenia,” is not. The first labels the person; the second labels the disorder he has. We also imply shame when we assign moral weakness to a problem of brain chemistry imbalance or genetic predisposition. And when we verbally sling the name of a diagnosis, say Bipolar, at someone like a slang put-down, we contribute to the shame of those who legitimately have that disorder. The same is true when we allow our children to do so without consequences.
It is our sincere hope that this column will bring about positive change. Let’s start by showing respect and compassion to all people, especially those affected by mental illness.
If you have a question or would like information about a specific topic, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Stockton is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Coach, and owner of Inner Peace Coaching & Counseling located at 4030 Mount Carmel Tobasco Road in Cincinnati. For more information, please visit www.lindastockton.com.