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Invisible Problem: Why We Choose to Ignore our Mental Health


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'It's all in your head'


'It's all in your head' is what we were conditioned to believe.


Invalidation, which happens when a person's thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviours are rejected, criticized, or neglected, either by themselves or by others, has an impact on people of all ages.

This may result in irrational emotions, negative feelings, and even mental health problems. Through emotional invalidation we may have been taught to feel like our thoughts and emotions are unacceptable or inappropriate, therefore instead we may have learned to unintentionally repress them or to intentionally suppress them.


Healthline explains the difference between the two, as well as ways in which you can recognise your own repression in your behaviour and feelings. These include making a habit of reflecting on 'how you are feeling' by perhaps asking yourself the question directly, followed by answering the question using 'I' statements and avoiding judging yourself and your emotions.


Recognising our feelings can help us avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms that are a way to further suppress and avoid certain feelings.


Coping mechanisms


The NHS lists 10 stress busters including avoiding unhealthy habits that only provide temporary relief, for example alcohol, smoking or other recreational substances.



By indulging in these compulsive temporary reliefs, we are worsening our mental health and abandoning solutions that are not only healthier but could help us in the long run.


The healthier alternatives for the negatively addictive coping mechanisms, involve you to take part in activities that are more personally fulfilling such as exercise, meditation, art/journaling, giving back through volunteering, positive reframing, learning and communicating your triggers and seeking professional help.


Avoiding treatment

Thriveworks outlines 6 reasons why people avoid mental health treatment:

1. The fear of Judgement and being seen as weak. This could be from the person that is treating you, from your family or friends, and even from yourself. When actually having that self-awareness and willpower to get better requires strength, so that should be the most important thing to remember when you decide to get treatment.

2. Doubting the treatment's effectiveness from own experience or the experience of others. It’s important to keep trying as not all methods of treatment will work out for everyone. We all have different individual needs that need to be met. You need to find something that works for you.

3. Showing Vulnerability may be something that makes us feel uncomfortable as we may have learned to hide vulnerability as a defence mechanism. We may also be scared to discover vulnerabilities we were not aware of, however acknowledging them once again does not make you weak but can help you work on them in a healthy way.

4. Pride and the inability to accept that treatment may be necessary or helpful, as you may want to work it out yourself. But there is no shame in asking for help when you are trying to work on yourself, and you can still be proud of yourself for accepting help.


5. Impatience is another factor that makes us either avoid treatment or give up on it. A lot of our mental health problems require us to look into a more subconscious side of our mind, which is not easy and depending on the individual can take longer than they expect.


This reason could be linked to pride, as you may be harsh on yourself for not getting better immediately. But you should treat your own treatment how you would advise others to. For example, if your friend was going through the same thing would you advise them to give up? Or would you tell them to be patient and keep going?


6. Lastly, misinformation on how you will be perceived, which has a link to the fear of judgement. The misconception that if you are seeking treatment means something is wrong with you is often the problem, we all face, as well as the misconception that we are alone in this.


Mental health stigma


Despite increased awareness of mental health, the stigma around it still exists, resulting in misconceptions, the fear of judgement and vulnerability that make us avoid mental health treatment.


The American Psychiatry Association (APA) outlines that researchers identify three types of stigma involved with mental health: Public stigma, Self-stigma, and Institutional stigma.


Self- stigma may be some of the factors above but it may also be derived from public stigma which stems from things like media representations and stereotypes being formed around people with mental health.


The APA explain that the best way to reduce stigma is achieved through contacting or knowing someone with a mental illness. With increased awareness we have more people speaking out about their own experiences, including celebrities that may be role models to us. Awareness increases understanding, therefore helps others learn what is real and what is simply a misinformed stereotype.


It is important to continue to increase awareness, however, we must also challenge stigma. If you are being discriminated against due to your mental health, check out the resources provided by the Mental Health Foundation that explain what to do in this situation.


Conclusion


Overall, these are only some of the reasons why mental health treatment may still be avoided. Everyone's reasons are different but it’s important to challenge yourself when it comes to your own reasoning.


Acknowledging why you choose to avoid it whether its due to emotional invalidation, self-stigma or public stigma is an important step that may help you on your journey of becoming better.


Then the next step is to keep yourself well informed about mental health to avoid believing negative stereotypes.





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