For years, I've seen a psychologist for therapy to treat my anxiety and depression. I haven't ever been consistent, but I always end up in the mental health waiting room at some point each year. Every time I go, I'm terrified—not to talk about my problems, but of the stigma I feel is placed on people seeking therapy.
I live in fear that someone I know is going to see me in the waiting room, which is silly because this theoretical person would also be in the waiting room for the same reason. I guess I just don't want to feel like I'm "crazy" for needing to see a doctor for my mental health.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2016 approximately 18.3% of U.S. adults were living with a mental illness. Of that 18.3%, only 41.3% received treatment for their condition. While some of the disparity may be due to inadequate access to care and/or the cost of care, I can't help but think that some of the 58.7% of those affected by mental illness was too concerned with the stigma that would be held against them if someone they know were to find out about their state of mental health.
I found some research that states there are even different types of stigma surrounding therapy including public stigma related to seeking help and self-stigma. Apparently, people who admit something is wrong and seek help for their mental condition are stigmatized against more than those who ignore their problem and live their lives in suffering. And then, even those who are suffering in silence may be holding back from getting the treatment they need simply because they've created a stigma against themselves as they believe their condition makes them "crazy." I'm sorry, but that is absolutely beyond ridiculous.
On top of the stigma, there are people out there that are apparently twisted enough to pretend to be psychiatrists to take advantage of those with mental illness. A lady named Zholia Alemi was recently arrested for practicing psychiatry without a medical license in the UK after altering a patient's will for her own financial gain. Alemi had been practicing for twenty-two years! As someone with anxiety, the most common mental illness in the United States, I know from personal experience that going to therapy appointments makes my condition much worse because of the stigma. Now I guess I also need to worry about whether or not my therapist is a fraud. While the UK government is changing their policies and checking on doctors that went down the same path Alemi used as a loophole, this situation has likely worsened the mental conditions of many of her patients and those who have been following her story.
Something has got to change. I'm sick and tired of my very normal health condition causing me so much shame—not because I have it, but because I want to seek treatment for it and get better. I mean, do we pass judgment on those going to physical therapy? No, we would never do such a thing. So why are we doing that to those that have health conditions we can't see? Honestly, I can't think of a valid answer to that question.