Written by: Maritza Barrera, LMFT
"Let's talk about meds..."
...Mental health meds, to be precise. I find there is still so much stigma around mental health medications. Often, clients will arrive to my office and one of the first things they will say is they don’t want to take medication. So, let’s clear some things up.
First, a master’s-level therapist cannot prescribe medication, however, they may recommend you for a medication evaluation by either a psychiatrist, a Nurse Practitioner, or your medical doctor. The reasons for this recommendation can vary depending on the person and their particular symptoms.
Nevertheless, let’s get back to breaking down the stigma. So, I want you to imagine that you have no feeling in your legs whatsoever. They are there, but you are paralyzed from the waist down. Now, I want you to imagine that all your friends and family, and, basically everyone you come into contact with keeps telling you that you don’t need your wheelchair to get around and be functional. You hear things like “I bet you can walk, you’re just not trying hard enough” or “You could do this, if you would just get over it."
Now, most people are very accepting of physical limitations and the need for reasonable accommodations. This means that most of us see someone in a wheelchair and go about our day, we don’t challenge their need for the wheelchair to be able to function in the world like the majority of us who don’t need a wheelchair. But, this is what we are doing when we say, “you should just get over it” to someone struggling with depression, or anxiety, or PTSD, and the list goes on.
So why would I, or anyone else, tell someone who is struggling with their mental health to “just get over”? Well, I’m sure there are many reasons, but the big one is social stigma. We don’t see a lack of serotonin (the neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy, relaxed, and much more) to be as limiting and in need of treatment as the person with no feeling in their legs. But, if we’re being honest, the person with a mental health condition is likely suffering so much more than can be known. The stigma makes people hide, it causes them to shun medication they might need to lead a happy and productive life, and it limits our ability to provide proper treatment.
So if you are suffering with mental illness, don’t let the stigma get you down. Do your best to drown out the noise. And please take this message and spread it far and wide. A pill is not so different from the wheelchair and we have to stop shaming those who need the meds.
Maritza Barrera is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, and Qualified Supervisor. She is the owner of Pure Empathy and works to fulfill her mission of promoting awareness, compassion, and acceptance to everyone she can reach! Welcome to the light side! #nerdybynature