I was tutoring a child one Sunday when her mother walked into the room and asked me to leave after learning that I worked as a counsellor. My supervisor warned me about the social challenges a counsellor might face but I did not expect to experience it first-hand. It saddens me to say this, but there is still a stigma around mental health all around the world.
If this negative spotlight constantly shines on people struggling with anxiety and depression, it can hinder them from getting help. Misconceptions about mental health issues and counselling work arise due to lack of public education and awareness. The following are common myths about mental health and counsellors:
People with mental health issues are baddies.
With or without mental health issues, people commit crimes and harm others. No matter how ostensible it is, this is unquestionably a stereotype. It has no basis in fact.
People who suffer mental health issues are just emotionally weak.
Quite the contrary, actually. Not many of us have the courage to put our ego aside and talk about our pain and fears with a stranger (i.e. a counsellor). They are overwhelmed, yes, but certainly not emotionally weak.
People with mental health issues cannot work with other people.
Some of them are extroverts who can work quite well with other people. Others have also lived with mental health issues long enough to know how to ‘be okay' around people. They often use work as a coping mechanism and I have clients tell me that work keeps them in focus and gives them a sense of identity.
Counsellors work with crazy people.
Counsellors work with people just like any other occupation that provides services to people. Besides, counsellors must abide by a code of ethics and we must treat every client fairly regardless of their background without imposing our values, beliefs, and personal opinions. The stigma is already detrimental to those who needs counselling help, an ethical counsellor would avoid labelling and judging his or her clients.
Psychiatric cases such as schizophrenia and multiple personality disorders are less common. These cases are usually referred to psychiatrists and sometimes, we would work together with the psychiatrists to help clients cope with symptoms while continuing with their daily activities.
If a client sees a counsellor, it puts his or family and friends to shame.
This is another undesirable effect of the stigma attached to mental health. Why is seeing a doctor for a cold or getting acupuncture from a physician considered okay but not seeing a counsellor or getting therapy?
We all feel happy, sad, angry, scared and so one sometimes but there are times when we can feel really overwhelmed and not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Waking up every day and interacting with family members can become a chore when we are emotionally drained.
Join me at #BreakTheStigma and be kind to everyone.