Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Stigma and Robin Williams

Precious Robin Williams and the other one million people who killed themselves worldwide this year, I grieve for you.

I grieve that you felt so hopeless that in your mind there was no other choice but death.

I grieve for the families you leave behind.  They must have so many unanswered questions.

I grieve that your depression and/or anxiety won the fight.

These past few days, we all have been bombarded with Facebook posts, blogs, quotes, and debates---all related to whether or not suicide is selfish or whether or not depression is a disease or a choice. In my mind I ask...who cares? Does it really matter?  Someone who feels so hopeless and helpless that they will purposely terminate their own life makes my heart break.  It drives my desire to help hurting people even more - cry with them, pray with them, assure them they are going to get to the other side of the pain.

Unfortunately, there is still a great societal stigma on mental illness, counseling, and therapy.  As a therapist, I see it. 

All. The. Time.

Many clients will start off their first session describing how embarrassed they are, or how weak they feel to have to see a counselor.  Others will continually make sure that everything they say is confidential so no one ever finds out that they are in therapy.   I even had someone remark how grateful they were that our building was on a private road so they were not seen walking in. 
This stigma is what discourages an untold amount from getting help and thereby increases depression...anxiety...suicide.

How can you help change this?  Share with others your own counseling experiences. Tell someone how medicine may have helped you with depression or anxiety. Normalize a new mom's struggles with your story of postpartum depression.   

If you know someone who needs therapy, offer to take them to their first appointment and affirm their decision to get help.

And to that person who needs help:

You are not crazy, 
You are not inadequate, 
You are not weak. 

Mental illness, depression, sadness - whatever you are going through, there are millions struggling with it too. Counseling, therapy, or meeting with a pastor can help. I have seen it work many times. The Bible says “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel."  Proverbs 1:5

On a side note, if you know anyone who is emotionally or mentally struggling, help them in simple ways.  Take them a meal.  Insist on helping with laundry or clean their bathroom.   Bring them groceries.  Those who have been depressed or severely anxious, know all too well how basic daily tasks can be an exhausting struggle.

Written by Melissa Yoak, MA, LPCC
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Melissa Yoak holds a Master of Arts Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Akron and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Malone University. She is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). She is married to a minister of a local church and the mother of three children.