Break the Stigma about Mental Health
At Avesta Ketamine and Wellness, we fully support efforts to #BreaktheStigma about mental health. At its core, the Break the Stigma effort is rooted in suicide prevention because that is the absolute worst outcome of mental health suffering. The goal of this effort is to help prevent those that suffer from ever reaching the point of considering suicide. Suicide is irreversible and devastating. If you are reading this and need help immediately, please call 800-273-8255, 888-486-8264, 804-257-5591, or 646-632-5189.
In thinking about the seriousness of Break the Stigma and suicide prevention, I thought I would share a story from a reader who recently shared a story with us about the effects of a family member’s death due to suicide.
“It’s been nearly 10 years since my father committed suicide and the wound will always be fresh. The pain never goes away. The ‘what ifs’ are lifelong. What if I had been there? What if I could have stopped it? Was it my fault? And then there is the everlasting sadness about what my dad is missing, like seeing me graduate, knowing his grandson, holidays... it's a long list. It was devastating then, and it’s still devastating today. I was 30 when it happened. My dad was 62. I’ll never forget the day. It was snowing heavily in Virginia (2011), and I was at home due to the inclement weather. I checked my phone at some point that morning finding a dozen missed calls and a voicemail from my great-uncle. Of course, I immediately knew something was wrong and called my uncle—and he delivered the news that my dad had died. He had committed suicide. He was found in his living room chair, alone and dead. A neighborhood friend who visited often had found him. I was his only child and the only real immediate family he had. It was me who had to handle and manage his affairs afterwards. It’s difficult to fully explain my pain, but I don’t wish that pain on anyone. In fact, I wish I could have taken his pain and replaced it with hope. But I never got that chance because I didn’t know he was suicidal. I wish I could have helped him. I also wish he had the courage to help himself.”
How to Break the Stigma
One of the best ways to help break the stigma is by simply recognizing that mental health illnesses are real genetic conditions. Those that suffer from mental health conditions cannot help that they have a condition. They can however, do something about it with an adequate support system.
If you or someone you know suffers from a mental health condition, you are not alone. And guess what, we cannot just sweep mental health under the rug and pretend illnesses do not exist. They do and they are real. The most important attitude anyone can have towards mental health is compassion, whether it is compassion towards yourself or towards others. If you are reading this and are personally suffering right now, have some compassion for yourself. It is not your fault. It is okay--and it is going to be okay tomorrow. There are people that understand what you are going through and they will help you, myself included. It your leg was broken, you would fix it. If you did not feel well because you had a cold, you would seek a remedy. If you do not feel well because you are suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or any other mental health illness, you should view treatment no differently. You have a condition, and it is okay to seek treatment.
Is our society’s attitude toward mental health as good as it should be? No! Is every single person you encounter going to be educated and thoughtful enough to understand mental health illness? No. That is a reality. But that is their problem, not yours. That is their ignorance, not yours. Are there faults in the health system? Yes, there are. However, there are numerous resources dedicated to mental health awareness, mental health support, and mental health treatment. Those organizations, (ourselves included) are the people you should lean on during difficult times. All it takes on your part is a few ounces of courage to admit you need help, and the support system you call on will help you find the rest.
Above all, be honest with yourself. If you cannot be honest with yourself, how you can expect honesty in return? If you expect society to break the stigma, you, yourself, have to be a part of that--and break the stigma with yourself by admitting you need help. Be honest with your doctors, be honest in following your treatment regime, and be honest about your own self-care.
How to help yourself if you feel you are becoming ill:
Don't blame yourself (or others!)
Reach out to your doctor
Eat, drink, and sleep healthy amounts
Take your medication every single day
If your medication isn't working talk to your psychiatrist
Don’t abuse drugs and alcohol, it will only make things worse
How to help a friend or family member with a mental health condition:
There is a reality that it is hard to help someone that does not want to help themselves. Facing mental health illness takes courage and you can offer support, concern, compassion, positivity, and guidance. You can also educate yourself. You can do things such as learn more about mental health recovery. You can also attend a Suicide Prevention training because you may be able to help prevent a suicide if you know the signs, and know how to get someone help. Below are some good resources:
Face Your Feelings Head On
The biggest problem with mental health illness is that the sufferer feels embarrassment and shame, like nobody understands. It is normal to feel that way and is largely due to the societal stigma that we are discussing here. In terms of your own life, thinking about the stigma on a large scale is overwhelming, but thinking about changing the stigma on a small scale in your own life becomes much easier to grasp. Change happens one person at a time. If you suffer from mental illness, you must break your own stigma first before you can hope to change others. If you have loved one who suffer from mental health illness, you must break the stigma with yourself if you hope to change how your loved one feels. Change may be elicited through words, but it is inspired by actions.
In sticking with our message about honesty, there is real truth in the reality that mental health illness is genetic, but severity can be improved in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle can help to prevent the genetic onset or worsening of genetic mental health conditions, as well as chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, finding the balance between work and play, the ups and downs of life, physical and mental health can help you on the path toward relief.
At Avesta Ketamine and Wellness, yes, we are certainly a provider of IV Ketamine and Spravato for treatment-resistant mood disorders, but more so, we care about advocating for mental health support. Even if we do not become your treatment provider, at the very least we hope we can empower you with useful information that will help you on your road to recovery.