The Stigma of Mental Health

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To Face a Dragon

The topic of mental health can sometimes feel like some dark entity, a seething dragon lurking within the shadowy caverns of our mind. To face it, some of us may be fortunate enough to be clad in gleaming armor, brandishing sword and shield. But there are also those who have the misfortune of facing off against the dragon with neither armor nor sword.

The challenges of mental wellbeing were starting to gain more attention around PTSD and gun violence when the COVID pandemic flung the topic to the forefront of public consciousness. All at once, many of us suddenly had to contend with the emotional hardship of economic struggles and surging loneliness.

Unfortunately, those same concerns remain prominent today, with the US Surgeon General recently warning of the dangers posed by emotional unwellness. The stigmatization around mental health has long been a struggle since far before our societal misadventures, as conveyed here by psychiatric professor Wulf Rössler.

Where once our battle against the internal dragon may have been ignored or shunned, many of our workplaces have now adopted psychological wellbeing policies. Many of us even have access to Employee Assistance Programs featuring therapy services. Nonetheless, it can be frightening to share our innermost emotional troubles even to a loved one at home, let alone a colleague at work—which is perhaps why so few EAP services actually get used.

Though we’ve come a long way, we still run the risk of our psychological concerns being shrugged off or even rebuked by a callous, unsympathetic response. There remain many who refuse the importance of psychological wellbeing. Yet this attitude of “get over it and get back to work” can be detrimental to wellbeing, resulting in burnout and reduced productivity.

Thus, to truly help each other square off against that lurking dragon, we must do more than refer to EAP or company policies. As HR Expert Mark Bailey emphasizes in this TED Talk, we must connect with each other.

Through our everyday interactions and the supportive behaviors therein, we can create a group of fellow knights, trusted companions that will fly our banners high whenever the nightmarish dragon shows its sinister face.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
― Charles Dickens

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