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Re-Prioritizing Mental Health

» Mental Health Library » Featured Articles

By Bonnie-Jean Thurston-Snoha, Ph.D.

Bonnie-Jean Thurston-Snoha, Ph.D.In today's society, even as we become more open-minded in several areas of life, we still consistently undervalue the importance of mental health treatment and attach a stigma to mental illness. These "hang-ups," so to speak, hinder optimal functioning for those who suffer from mental illness, from depression to schizophrenia. Part of the stigma likely arises from faulty information regarding violence in the mentally ill or stereotypes of emotional weakness in those with a mental illness. Of course, this stigma is likely a major reason why individuals with mental health problems do not seek help, unfortunately.

To address stigma as a potential obstacle in therapy-seeking, it is important to reconceptualize emotion and examine it from a different perspective. While emotion tends to be associated with weakness and mental illness a sign of vulnerability, I argue that gaining insight into one's emotions and learning to effectively problem-solve toward mental health is a sign of strength. Eventually, ignoring emotional and mental health problems will only exacerbate the problems, make them more highly visible, and potentially lead to the very perception of weakness that people have been attempting to escape through avoidance of treatment.

There are likely many other reasons that individuals do not seek treatment, however, including the expense associated with therapy. In a world where managed care is covering fewer and fewer services, individuals are more than likely going to have to pay for therapy out of pocket, if not at the beginning of treatment, then later when the insurance stops covering needed sessions. But can we put a price tag on mental health care? The answer is a vehement NO.

The priority of mental health must be examined in the context of our everyday lives. We tend to spend an inordinate amount of money on clothes, nails, hair, shoes, and accessories. Some of these expenses are paid out on a very frequent basis and arguably cost just as much as a therapy session! So where are our priorities?

People tend to prioritize their physical health needs. For example, if a person has the flu, he or she is more likely to see a physician than to see a therapist for his or her depression. However, mental illness is associated with increased physical health problems, increased social problems, and increased occupational problems. In sum, it can potentially have devastating effects on several areas of a person's life.

Therapy is a win-win. With treatment compliance, therapy pays for itself. There are many short term therapies available that have been shown with research to be effective, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. The gains made in therapy, such as meeting occupational goals through learning coping mechanisms or through the amelioration of anxiety leading to better social skill in recreational settings, afford the opportunity for better functioning in multiple domains. Thus, the strength of a person is not determined by whether he or she has a mental illness, but by what he or she chooses to do about it.

About the Author...

Dr. Thurston-Snoha specializes in anxiety and depressive disorders in adults. She currently practices in Morgantown, WV (Bonnie-Jean Thurston-Snoha, Ph.D. Therapy Services).

Last Update: 8/27/2011

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