Over the last decade, there’s been a significant trend in organizations doing work to raise awareness about the importance of mental health. Historically, there’s been a stigma around mental health diagnoses and treatment. Though things have gotten better, they still aren’t perfect. The negative stigma around mental health continues to create a barrier to treatment for many.
Here at The Next Door, we treat both substance abuse disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. Every patient that comes through our residential treatment program receives a full psychiatric evaluation within 48 hours of their arrival by one of our Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners. Some of these NPs, along with a few members of our clinical staff, sat down with me to discuss common misconceptions about mental health.
Three Common Misconceptions About Mental Health
- If I have mental health symptoms, I must have a mental health disorder
Symptoms can exist without fitting to any specific diagnosis. We get stressed. We feel depressed. We have mood swings. These things don’t always indicate a mental health disorder. Not everything is a diagnosis. We live in a broken world that can be difficult to navigate. These difficulties don’t always equal mental illness. Sometimes, life circumstances and learned coping methods (healthy and unhealthy) combine in a way that makes life Working through these things in therapy can be helpful, even if there is no official diagnosis. Mental health is something everyone can work on, in the same way we could probably all eat a few more vegetables.
- There is a “magic pill” that will fix everything
It would be nice, wouldn’t it? A person with diabetes can take insulin and live a great life. If you’ve got high blood pressure, there’s a pill that can help regulate it. Sure, there are medications proven to treat the chemical imbalances that exist in the brain. Many are quite effective, especially for diagnoses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; however, it’s a combination of medication and therapy that is most effective. That “magic pill” doesn’t exist.
- Having past trauma means I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A lot of factors that play into how we individually manage trauma. It’s different for everyone. Common images of trauma include veterans and victims of sexual and childhood abuse. All of these certainly fall into the category of trauma and may even lead to PTSD; however that’s not always the case. PTSD isn’t an automatic diagnosis based on trauma. Because trauma can be so different for everyone (abuse, grief, loss, war, violence, etc.), it leads to different effects as well. Just because someone doesn’t have a PTSD diagnosis, doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced trauma.
It can be scary to start the journey of paying close attention to your mental health. Processing past trauma, feelings, and experiences can leave us feeling vulnerable and unsafe. A crucial part of the process is finding a therapist you trust and having an open conversation with them. We see the change this can make in a life every day here at The Next Door. Women take brave steps in vulnerability with their therapists, case managers, and each other. If you talk to one of our clients, this is what she will tell you: it will be hard sometimes, but it will be so worth it.