Public perception of mental health stigma does not entirely reflect a reality that exists. Many of you reading this that have experienced truly negative reactions from others (due to mental health concerns and/or treatment) may be angered or offended by this proposition. However, no one (especially myself) is saying that stigma is not a serious concern that doesn’t need to be addressed. It is. Although in some ways I do feel that people can seek out treatment with less apprehension today than decades ago, there is no doubt that many still experience negative reactions (intentionally or unintentionally) from what others perceive in them.
Experiencing emotional pain is a necessary part of life. Emotional pain often contains valuable lessons to help us on our journeys. We need to make sure we are not numbing our hearts to those that are hurting. We need to de-stigmatize the struggles, joys and pains that come with being human. We need to not just mindlessly pursue happiness - though we might think of that as an inalienable right - and avoid pain. We need to do the only thing that brings true joy: embrace all of life and each other, as we experience together all that makes us human.
While a great deal of the excitement about advances in psychological treatments comes from the potential for research in neuroscience to unlock the secrets of the brain, many mental health experts would like to temper this enthusiasm. A special issue of the Behavior Therapist released this month calls into question the predominant conception of mental illnesses as brain disorders.