The therapy stigma

A man lies on a therapist chair. The therapist sits facing him.

I've been putting off talking to someone due to negative stigma.

Okay, maybe the stigma is not completely to blame, because there have certainly been other factors which have caused me to put off a quite important task. But my preconceived notions of what counselling, therapy, or psychological help would be definitely has held me back. 

What is the stigma around getting professional mental health help? It is different for everyone. For me, I had two negative images: the first, a Freud-like figure watches their patient lie in their chair as they are forced to talk about their childhood; the second, an entitled Gen Z rudely dropping friends because their "therapist told me to remove any toxic energy in my life".

These quite uneducated (and slightly comical, let's be real) versions of counselling or therapy may differ for other people. Some other stigmatised ideas have been cemented in my head which tell me why I need not bother with therapy. For one, there is that problematic idea that exclusively talking to the close people in my life can suffice, and surely talking to them is the same as talking to a professional? It's all venting, seeking validation, and catharsis, right? Right?

Wrong! We all know that it can be draining for your friends and family to use their mental energy every time you want to discuss things. And of course, most importantly, your loved ones are (most of the time) not professionals equipped with the training and knowledge to help you. They also are seldom an objective voice.

I have also struggled with another harmful preconception that it is indulgent to take out time in my month to sit and talk about my feelings. Do I even have time for it? I've got a busy schedule, so can an extra appointment really be justified? I've already got enough on my plate. 

Again, I have realised how ridiculous this notion is. Talking to someone who will help you, who will be able to give you the skills and the mindset to tackle your daily mental struggles, can always be justified. 

Finally, I was clouded by the stress that it would be very difficult to organise a counselling appointment, and that it would be expensive. But if you talk to the right person (including a doctor, to organise a mental health plan), it doesn't have to be either of these things; they can help you to sort it out.

I am only just beginning my journey, but am already starting to reap the benefits. I know that my stigma is still very much existent (apparent in my comments like 'sorry for complaining!' or 'hope that it's not too personal to bring this up') but we definitely need to be working to destigmatise this idea.

Please remember Student Life Counselling Support provide free, confidential, short term professional counselling support to currently enrolled students, to address issues that may be affecting their study and life. Visit here to access counselling. 

Tagged in What messes with your head