074 588 3808 rdpearman@gmail.com

Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Health

Chad Prinsloo | Web Designer

Robbie Pearman  |  Counselling Psychologist

September 04 2023

Hi my name is Robbie Pearman, a Counselling Psychologist based in Blairgowrie Johannesburg.

In the realm of mental health, “stigma” is defined as a level of shame, prejudice, or discrimination toward people with mental-health or similarly related conditions.

We have a wide array of mental health conditions that pose as much of a threat to people’s abilities to live effective and happy lives as those with physical diseases or conditions. As far as we have come with regards to speaking more openly about mental health within communities and on the public platform largely speaking, much still needs to be done to increase awareness and understanding.

One of the bigger issues is that when someone receives a diagnosis of what is perceived to be a more serious mental health condition (such as Major Depressive disorder, or bipolar disorder), our reaction is simply not comparable with serious physical conditions. For example, we regard Cancer as a serious diagnosis. Whilst it has cost many people their lives, it is also a disease some people have made full recoveries from. The status of the disease is in constant flux. With people taking on treatment for Cancer, a dynamic process unfolds. The severity of the disease changes over time, either getting worse, or better, but it rarely stands still. The process of living with Cancer is a fluid picture, and most people understand this.

That level of understanding stops when it comes to mental health. Someone who has a mental illness, is too often considered to be permanently compromised. Compromised in terms of ever being able to be the best version of themselves. A CEO who recovers from Cancer and returns to successfully run a major organisation is celebrated. A CEO with Major Depressive Disorder diagnosis might lose the trust of the business community to be the kind of leader they expect them to be, even if their treatment is effective. Once tarnished with that brush, the stigma remains.

However, the reality is that there are many people in society that are leading successful, happy lives, having overcome a major mental health challenge. These conditions are also in a constant state of flux. Depending on the choices an individual makes in terms of accessing treatment, their prognosis can vary dramatically. We need to stop thinking of such people as forever damaged goods when it comes to known mental health challenges. This is often the reason why people resist getting treatment, as they fear for how the way they are treated by people will be forever altered.

Infact people who have overcome mental illness successfully are possibly amoungst the most resilient people out there, and capable of moving on to greater heights. Consider JK Rowling author of the Harry Potter series, who was quoted as saying ““I have never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. Never. What’s to be ashamed of? I went through a really rough time and I am quite proud that I got out of that.”

So, with that said, if you need help, speak to someone, it’s a sign of courage, not weakness.

I’m a Counselling Psychologist situated in Blairgowrie, near the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, such as Rosebank and Sandton.

I work with individuals, couples, families, and small groups to address current challenges with a solution-focused approach. These challenges may include some more common complaints such as depression, and anxiety, or those trying to come to terms with trauma or bereavement.

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