by Sarah Smith-Putman, LCPC, LC-ADC
Recently, I had a new client tell me on her initial visit that she felt ashamed and embarrassed. This was not her reason for coming in, but the feeling she had about being in an office specified for ‘mental health’. Although I have heard this before, I'm always dismayed that the folks most responsible and courageous in our society, those who choose to better themselves in a way that not only improves their lives but also the lives of others, have a feeling of shame in doing so.
It is long overdue that the stigma about mental health change. When someone, who after years of a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating choices possibly combined with unhealthy genetics of some sort, finally buys a gym membership, they are happy and proud to announce to others this first step towards better physical health. And, they are applauded for it. Why as a society are we not as supportive of those taking a step towards better mental health?
Better mental health in all of us could have a butterfly effect so large we can't even imagine the positive benefits this could have on society. What if everyone learned positive coping skills while young? What if all couples learned how to overcome their family baggage before bringing it into their new family? What if genetic mental disease were caught earlier and treated earlier? Or, wonder of wonders: What if it was just as important for all children to have mental health as it is to have gym or physical health? Then there would be no stigma.
I guess this was a big part of my reason to join CRBH as a partner in January of this year. I believe those seeking our services are the brave and that they are the ones in our community who want things to be better. I respect them and admire their courage. In doing my own work, I have found that our physical being is very connected to our mental and spiritual being. I have taught group fitness and yoga classes for years as well as finding fulfillment in the outdoors. I want to bring that sense of wholeness to our practice. My hope for our practice is that we assist clients in finding their best overall health, and that we assist society in eliminating this destructive stigma that is placed on those who are most constructive in our communities.