Mental Health Stigma
The brain is one of our most important organs. It is responsible for learning, thinking, memory, decision making, social interactions, emotions and so much more. The brain can get sick just like the rest of the body.
Dementia is a term used to describe different memory loss diseases, one of which is Alzheimer’s. As we get older, it is common to forget things like recent events or where you placed your keys, but dementia is not a normal part of aging. Many of the diseases under this umbrella are due to changes in the brain. Sometimes, dementia can be caused by another health issue like medication, deficiency in certain vitamins, or a hormone imbalance. When one of these health issues are affecting the brain and causing dementia, it is reversible. If someone in your family started to exhibit signs of dementia, you would probably take them to the doctor to figure out what the underlying cause is, and what treatment options are available. The doctor can work with your loved one to figure out the type of dementia they are experiencing, as well as if it is reversible due to another health condition. (1)
Another category of disorders that can affect the brain are learning disorders. Learning disorders are often identified when a child or youth is having difficulty learning at school. If there is a learning disorder present, the school can put support in place to ensure the youth has what they need to learn and be successful. If you have a child that is struggling with their learning, you will most likely take steps to get them what they need to be successful. This may look like getting them evaluated for a learning disorder, or this may look like taking them to tutoring.
What about looking at other areas of the body? If you were to break your arm, you would go to the doctor so that if needed, they could set the bone. The doctor may also put you in a cast to give the bone support while it heals. In this situation, the setting of a bone can be painful, and a cast can be irritating to have to wear for an extended period of time. As someone who has had to wear a cast, I can tell you they get uncomfortable! The itching, making sure it was covered when I showered, and not being able to do all the things I wanted to do were a few of the annoyances I experienced at the time. So, what are the alternatives? If you don’t go to the doctor, the bone may not heal correctly, and it could cause lasting damage and pain. Even though I remember the pain well, I am glad I went to the doctor so my arm could heal!
There has been a long occurring stigma around mental health, and it often prevents people from being open and honest about what they are struggling with and seeking help. Our brain is a complicated organ that controls so many of our daily functions. Someone who is struggling with their mental health may fear judgment, hospitalization, being labeled “crazy,” or people finding out. Mental health, like the rest of the brain, is something that is important to address.
For instance, depression can be treated through different therapy interventions, medication, and addressing other health concerns. Much like the different diseases of dementia, depression can have different underlying causes. The different causes of depression include but are not limited to hormones, medications, a different illness or health concern, chemical imbalance in the brain, food, or an event that has occurred. More severe depression can lead to suicidal thoughts, which can create additional stigma related barriers to get through. Just like all the other reasons I listed above, it is important to address this health issue. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 person dies by suicide every 11 minutes in the U.S. Every 11 minutes. About 3,347,000 adults in Texas are living with a mental health condition. (2)
It's okay to seek help and support when something is affecting your health and wellbeing. It’s important to seek help when something is affecting your health and wellbeing and you don’t know how to fix it. Much like a broken arm, a memory loss issue, a learning disorder, and many other health issues that arise in our human bodies, our mental health deserves the same care and attention. Don’t lose your life, reach out for support. Wear the cast. Get the evaluation. See a therapist. It’s time to break the stigma.
1: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/aging/dementia/index.html#:~:text=Dementia%20is%20not%20a%20specific,a%20part%20of%20normal%20aging.
2: National Alliance on Mental Health: chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/StateFactSheets/TexasStateFactSheet.pdf