By Amanda Kearney-Smith
This is week five of our blog campaign on stigma. So far we’ve reviewed the U, N, I, & T of U.N.I.T.E. this week we elaborate on the final letter “E” which stands for “embrace”.
U.N.I.T.E = Understand, Nurture, Include Others, Talk, Embrace is a campaign to reduce stigma started in Canada by an organization called Theravive¹.
Here is what the site said about E: Embrace Therapy “There is no shame in therapy.”
We must stop this notion of embarrassment over seeing a therapist. When an employee tells someone at work “I have a doctor’s appointment”, no one bats an eye. But to say “I have an appointment with my counselor (or psychologist or psychiatrist)” suddenly people start mumbling, “Oooh, did you hear so-and-so is seeing a therapist? Must be dealing with something serious”…and thus the rumor mill begins to churn, and stigma has won. This is nonsense, and has to stop. A doctor helps to take care of our physical health, just like a therapist is there to help take care of our mental health. There is no shame in seeing a therapist.
I think what is probably more common is that people don’t tell anyone they are seeking treatment from a psychiatrist, therapist, or other mental health professional. Stigma creates shame and fear among individuals who need treatment and for those of us who already receive treatment, the fear and shame persists.
Many people choose to not pursue mental health services because they do not want to be labeled a “mental patient” nor do they wish to suffer the prejudice and discrimination this label entails².
It is also the case that stigma can cross the line into discrimination and it often does. It’s not just about being uncomfortable or feeling shame about having it illness it becomes a greater struggle when for example, you can’t get your doctor’s to hear your medical complaints because they assume everything is “in your head”.
So are you ready to start embracing your treatment and your recovery? We can help! We also need your help… next week we’ll talk about ways to put your passion for breaking down stigma into action!
2) The impact of stigma on service access and participation. A guideline developed for the behavioral health recovery management project. Watson, A., & Corrigan, P. (2001). University of Chicago Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation.