Linda Lee ’21 advocates for greater infrastructure and support toward those facing mental health issues, dispelling widespread stigma over mental healthcare.
When thinking of healthcare, what often comes to mind is the image of doctors bustling about a hospital with their trailing stark, white coat and gleaming stethoscope around their necks. Perhaps others imagine a calmer scene of someone sleeping in a hospital bed, surrounded by IVs and anxious loved ones. While these are all valid and real situations in healthcare, who thinks of the therapist’s office? What of the inviting wallpaper and the chairs that have listened to countless conversations about vulnerability, fears, and inner battles? What about mental health?
Although much progress has been made in regards to mental health initiatives, awareness, and resources, there still exists a certain stigma around mental illness. The depressed college student is regarded as lazy by his professors and distant by their friends. The single mother battling schizophrenia feels more alienated everyday by the other mothers who hide their children when she walks past them. Negative attitudes about struggling with mental health pervade both internally and externally as those afflicted can feel helpless about their condition while those around them can shame them for their illness. Whether it is the judgmental whispering in school or discrimination in the hiring process, we are far from reaching a point of unequivocal acceptance and support of those suffering from mental illness. Even for advocates for mental health, mental health is still considered as a separate or less important aspect of health from the rest of traditional white-coat healthcare. In fact, many health insurance companies lack sufficient coverage for mental health. This can be damaging to someone’s health since most mental illnesses require expensive prescription drugs and psychiatrist appointments that can place a financial burden on patients.
When society fails to take mental health seriously, then the healthcare industry fails to take it seriously as well. Mental illness is a constant battle that requires a robust support system. However, if we do not hold mental health to the same weight as physical health, how can we provide the infrastructure, the culture, and the environment to help those who are struggling within the shadows of society? The brain—and thus the mind—is arguably the most important organ in the body, and like any other body part, it requires care and attention. Like any other body part, our brains can be hurt, and they will require healing; in these moments, however, we fail to provide patients with what they need and instead shame them for their illness.
Mental health deserves to be held to the same standard as any other aspect of healthcare because it is a sector of healthcare. The sooner our fundamental perception of mental health changes to accept it as a legitimate issue of private and public health, the sooner we can work to systematically address rising suicide rates, homelessness, and other rampant issues of mental health that plague our society.
Gold, J. (2017, November 30). Health Insurers Are Still Skimping On Mental Health Coverage. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/11/29/567264925/health-insurers-are-still-skimping-on-mental-health-coverage