Writing this article took me a little while.
Every time I tried to write, I would go back to those memories and times when I really wished I found help from a counselor or a therapist; I am talking about when I was an adolescent, all 15–17yrs. Full blown hormones, stress of studies, shifting to a new school and a new city both at the same time. I am referring to a time more than 20yrs back, just to give you the context.
It felt like no one saw me or cared to notice that I was struggling and I needed help with what I was going through and feeling. All I was told that this in the best interest of mine.
As a 15-17yr old I did not know and I am also assuming nor did the elders in my home knew about counselors and therapists. I had a far uncle in another city, who was a Psychiatrist and also ran his own ‘mental hospital/institute’ and in a casual term in hindi its was called ‘pagal khana/pagal ghar’, a place where mad people live or hospital for mad people.
So you see how it all began, while a lot has changed from then, we still can’t bypass how our society saw and parts of it may still be seeing the same way.
We cannot ignore the visual image that gets created when we hear ‘mental hospital/ pagal ghar’ and to imagine ourselves going to see a doctor in a mental institute can only mean that either we are mad or others around us think that we are mad for suggesting it.
There is so much going on just with the word ‘mental’ and therefore it is NOT a surprise to me that it is stigmatized. How can it not be? How can a person associate themselves with being in therapy and freely saying, “yes I am seeing help with a mental health professional” and in return not be considered mad, weak, unstable or even being ridiculed for it.
My reason to validate the stigma and the struggle is to reach out and recognize the layers underneath. Because when I do that, I open the space to have a conversation about it. I then understand those who hesitate being labeled and therefore then, I as a therapist can admit to the struggle people go through, and how vulnerable one may feel even while considering to seek help.
Therefore what has become more important than ever is to “Create Awareness” awareness not only about “Mental Health” but also about the terminology of who does what. It is so important to address this in “simple and clear” language so that everyone understands.
“When we fear something that we don’t know, the best way forward is to know it, to know what a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist or a counseling psychologist or a therapist does and the difference between each of them. Information and clarity is the key to bust the anxiety or worry or myths and stigmas around mental health professionals/profession.
Educating yourself and bringing awareness towards this profession will help you to know what you or others may need when wanting to reach out. This will also bring compassion and sensitivity, which is extremely important because just the fact that someone needs help can be seen as weak and lacking of the ability to do on their own. Which not only is untrue but also very insensitive, because its okay to not know everything that’s happening to us, to feel confused and entangled in thoughts.
Not everyone has a support system, not everyone wants to reaches out to their support system. There could be things we feel shameful about and would never tell anyone, seeking a professional is like giving the job to someone who knows how to do the job and eventually help you become capable doing it yourself in a healthy way. Like how we will not call a plumber for electric work, like wise we will not call a graphic designer to help us with our physical fitness journey or we will not call our landlord if we are going through a break-up.(unless we are living with our partner who owns the house, pun intended). If this sounds awkward you can remove it
Asking ourselves “what am I afraid of, what holds me back from seeking help from a professional, how come it is easy to call ‘urban clap’ to help in household chores, but difficult to call a therapist to figure out what’s happening emotionally and mentally with me”.
This would help you make sense of what keeps you away from taking the first step.
If I were to suggest anything then it would be this; when you are confused about making the call, Call! Call a therapist or a counselor and tell them how you are uncertain about asking for help, how it is confusing to understand whether you need help or not, and may be in your 1st session this is all you talk about. Then later, if anything changes or shifts for you, decide what feels okay to do, but give yourself that chance.
I am an expressive arts therapist and a lot of my work with the clients has shifted online. This helps me work with clients who are from different cities and are not finding someone who would suit their requirement. Now it is so much closer and easier to reach out for you.
I want to leave you with a little bit about being an ‘expressive art therapist’ and the beauty of this work, while I use talk as medium of communication there is a lot of exploration that happens using tools like colors, drama, images, visualization, metaphors and body. It is very non-threatening and you do not have to know these tools or skills. You only have to be present, available and ready to engage. If you still fear seeing a Psychiatrist(which you shouldn’t ) then for now, just reach out to a therapist or a counselor to explore and work with anything that’s holding you back in living fully and being the person you are.
I invite you on this journey of “mind & emotional well being” just like eating healthy, just like staying fit, and just like we keeping our outer living space clean, in the same we try keeping our inner living space clear too 🙂
If you need any help or therapy this is my mail id firstname.lastname@example.org feel free to contact