Thomas Cothren of New York is a substance abuse and mental health professional who is dedicated to helping clients find hope and healing through comprehensive recovery solutions. In the following article, Thomas Cothren dismantles the barriers that hinder open discussions about mental health. By shedding light on the importance of destigmatizing mental illness, and highlighting the benefits of seeking help, Cothren aims to foster a society that values and prioritizes mental well-being.
Between the constant growth of social media, the global COVID-19 health scare, and the endless pressures that characterize life in the modern world, it’s little wonder that the past few years have seen a rise in the rate of mental illness. With so many struggling, why is mental health still such a taboo topic?
Mental illness impacts approximately 1 in 4 adults and can pose challenges in everyday life for those who struggle, and those who interact with them. Speaking more openly about such issues can help encourage those struggling to seek treatment and resources and cultivate understanding and empathy throughout society.
Thomas Cothren of New York takes a deeper look at the stigma surrounding mental health and how raising awareness in open conversation can help to combat the misunderstanding and biases that keep so many people suffering in silence.
Thomas Cothren Highlights the Undiscussed Personal Impacts of Mental Illness
Mental illnesses are as diverse and individual as those they impact, and even those who struggle with the same diagnosis may have different challenges, triggers, and symptoms. Many who face mental health difficulties go undiagnosed for years or may never receive a formal diagnosis. That does not mean, however, that their experiences are any less valid.
Thomas Cothren of New York says that despite being called “mental” illnesses, these conditions often increase the risk of developing serious physical health concerns, including:
- high blood pressure
- weight issues
- chronic disease
- sleep problems
- dangerous substance overdose
Partially as a result, people with mental health issues also have a life expectancy 25-30 years lower than their compatriots.
In addition to the many physical and emotional challenges, Thomas Cothren of Fresh Start explains that mental illness can also have notable financial implications. The link between financial problems and mental health can stem from difficulties in spending, earning, or a combination of both. Some of the most common issues include:
- career interruption for treatment
- difficulty covering treatment costs
- difficulty working with others
- difficulty focusing at work
- impaired ability to make wise spending choices and save
- getting caught in a cycle of debt and increased symptoms, such as anxiety or depression
The Social Challenges:
Thomas Cothren of Fresh Start says that misinformation and preconceived judgements about mental illness feed into harmful stereotypes and discrimination against those already facing the many challenges associated with the illness itself. Stigmatizing beliefs can cause those who hold them to view those with mental illnesses with an attitude of fear, disrespect, and deprecation.
Some of the most common mental health stigmas include the beliefs that people with mental illness:
- are dangerous to be around
- are irresponsible and unable to make their own decisions
- are childlike and out-of-touch with the real world
- are prone to drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, and criminal actions
- are responsible for their own condition
Thomas Cothren of New York says that the negative social discourse surrounding mental illness can impact how those who suffer from these conditions view and value themselves. Many who receive a mental health diagnosis internalize the preconceived judgements associated with their condition and may feel resentment toward themselves or an internal anger toward others.
As a result of these internal experiences, many choose to hide or deny their condition at personal expense to their well being or to feel a sense of hopelessness based on others’ biased predictions of what they can or can’t achieve. They may also view themselves with shame, speak to themselves negatively, and treat themselves with disrespect.
As a result of these internalized burdens and fears about how others might react, many who struggle choose not to seek treatment, which often prolongs or worsens their suffering. While there are many resources that can help those battling mental illness, denying or avoiding a diagnosis can make them hard to access.
The Benefits of Openly Discussing Mental Health
In a society that has long hidden, misunderstood, and denied mental illness, many prominent social figures have recently opened up about their own struggles. Bringing their experiences with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse disorder to light has slowly begun to shift the narrative around mental conditions, explains Thomas Cothren of New York.
Raising awareness around these conditions is important for the health and well-being not only of those struggling first-hand, but also for the families, friends, peers, and co-workers around them. While every case of mental illness is unique, promoting general mental health education can help to combat the issues that arise because of misunderstanding, stereotypes, and fear.
Thomas Cothren of New York notes that open discussions about this previously-silenced topic can also encourage those impacted to seek the help they need without fear of judgment and also reassure them that they are not alone. While long-standing stigmas take time to change, bringing mental illness out of the shadows of secrecy is an important first step in working to build happier, healthier communities.
Despite their prevalence, mental health issues are widely misunderstood, with detrimental psychological and social impacts. Promoting open discussions about mental health can help to reduce the social stereotypes and misconceptions about mental illness and the shame they often cause, promote more support-seeking, and foster more compassionate relationships.