I’m sure you’ve heard the ignorant comments about mental health. You may have even witnessed the close-minded behavior towards someone struggling. Maybe you have experienced this lack of understanding for yourself. Maybe even you lack mental health knowledge.
Whatever the situation, we need to take a stand in ending the stigma of mental health.
How do we do that?
- Education. You can research or ask your doctor to help explain your diagnosis.
- Learning to advocate for yourself. You must be able to voice your wants and needs.
“My friends and family just don’t understand!”
Learning to communicate with others by identifying your wants and needs is a crucial lesson. Before you can do this you need to know your boundaries, then you can communicate with others where you stand, and what you expect from them.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I struggle with?
- What do I need to do to cope when faced with this stressor?
- What do I need my supports to know? Is there something they should do?
- How can I express myself clearly on how I feel?
For example: Tina struggles with social anxiety. When in large crowds, she begins to get an upset stomach, her mind racesworrying of what others around her are doing and what they are thinking, she has difficulty focusing, and begins feeling short of breath. To cope with this, it is helpful for her to temporarily remove herself from the room to regain control. Tina looks for her favorite color blue around the room as she makes her way outside, while she takes deep breaths (in through the nose, out through the mouth). She wants her spouse to not take it personally or become frustrated with her that she leaves. She explains to her spouse that, if she walks away, know that she just needs a few minutes alone, and will come back once she is ready. Tina also expresses her request of her spouse to not question “why” she became upset, because even Tina doesn’t always know what triggers the panic feeling; but to be supportive when she returns by taking her hand and continuing with the event.
She also knows that there are times when she cannot escape the crowd, so she requests to be prompted to look for blue things by her spouse when needed.
When they arrive home, Tina can explain what she felt, she may not know why, but they can talk together about the situation. Evaluating the duration and intensity of the anxiety attack can help improve symptoms in the future, as the goal is to lessen the impact. Tina wants her spouse to understand that she is doing the best she can and improving each and every time.
When meeting with your doctor or therapist, you also want to be able to advocate your wants and needs.
Before your appointment, think or write down these main points:
- What are my current symptoms/stresses? Am I having side effects?
- What improvements/setbacks have I had since my last appointment?
- What do I need to change?
- How can they help? What do I need from them?
- What questions do I have?
Remember, doctors are not mind readers. You must speak up and tell them what is going on. Don’t go in to your appointment and say “I’m fine,” and don’t go to therapy and just begin talking