Reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues is something that needs more attention, according to professionals who work in the field.
“Communication and reaching out from national and local mental health advocates are key factors in decreasing stigma,” said Janet Luzmoor of Janet Luzmoor Counseling LCC in Maryville, Missouri. “When I have a new client, I work hard to put them at ease, make them feel comfortable and validate their experiences, helping them to know they are not alone.”
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while some may think the issue was widespread only during the recent pandemic, a report from Mental Health America showed 19% of adults experienced a mental health illness in 2017 and 2018.
“First and foremost, divorce the idea that mental disorders are due to weak wills, weak minds, weak constitutions,” said Harriot Gordon of Restoration Therapy Services, located 1009 W St. Maartens Drive in St. Joseph. “There isn’t anything weak about it. It actually takes a lot of courage to face those things, to address those things, to ask for help.”
2020, which was mostly highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, certainly brought on more anxiety and depression screenings, according to the same report from Mental Health America. Between January and September of 2020, more than 315,000 people took an anxiety screen and more than 530,000 took a depression screen, both of which increased from 2019.
Statistics also are cause for concern for those in the younger age category. Individuals aged 11 to 17 who accessed screenings increased by 9% from 2019. Gordon said she has a variety of clients from different generations and with different backgrounds, and each age group has differences in how they view their mental health.
“I love how open younger generations are to talking about things, things that affect them emotionally. It’s a lot easier to then whittle down what works for them, what doesn’t,” Gordon said. “The older generations … you can almost feel the embarrassment come off of them when they come in like it’s a shameful thing. It really isn’t. It’s just a lot of skills and strategies that haven’t been openly shared before.”
As the advocacy for mental health awareness continues, Luzmoor believes she and all other professionals have a responsibility to make sure the topic of mental health remains a comfortable one to talk about for those suffering.
“Anxiety, depression, social anxiety, separation anxiety and other phobias have increased,” she said. We, as mental health professionals, need to continue to meet those needs.”