Therapists work to fight the stigma around mental health
By Elias Canterbury, reporter
Seeking mental health support and therapy carries a stigma with it that if you seek help, you are weak or less than those who don’t need help. Fighting this stereotype around therapy and encouraging people who struggle with their mental health to get help has always been an uphill battle for therapists and other mental health professionals.
Neighborcare therapist Anna Waldman has seen the stigma slowly start to disappear during her time as a mental health counselor.
“I think [the stigma] is changing. I think it’s getting better,” she said. “We’re working at that and it’s becoming less stigmatized. I do have clients that I know are pretty open about it with their friends, … but I also know that I have a bunch of clients that [aren’t].”
The stereotypes surrounding therapy and seeking help is worse among certain groups.
“I think … there’s more stigma about boys seeing a therapist than girls,” Waldman said. “And I think that there might be some cultural differences in certain races and ethnicities about seeking therapy. So I think that’s something that we have to work on still.”
It is difficult to pin down the exact reason for why this problem exists.
“I think teenagers are used to … feeling controlled by people when it comes to health, and mental health is an area where they don’t have to be controlled by people,” Waldman said.
Waldman wants to look for ways to fix that stigma and make people more comfortable with going to therapy and getting help. She encourages everyone who needs help to not be ashamed about asking for it.
“If you’re on the fence about counseling, give it a try and be open minded about the possibility of it being helpful,” Waldman said. “In my opinion, you don’t have much to lose by trying. The worst thing that can happen is that you go and you decide it’s not for you.”
Part of the stigma surrounding getting help is a misconception about what rights patients really have.
“I like to really encourage kids to feel empowered about the ways that they can have control over their own mental health care in terms of their confidentiality and their rights and their ability to start and stop [and] … to change their mind if they get started,” Waldman said. “And then [if] they realize it’s not for them, that they have the right to stop.”