Published on July 7th, 2013 | by Joanna Holman

5 Fears About Seeking Help for Mental Health

Doing anything new can be scary. Starting a new job, beginning a new school, moving to a new place . . . or getting help when something in your emotional world is not quite right. Seeking help for mental health or emotional struggles can seem intimidating, confusing, and overwhelming.

Here are five issues that I and others have found ourselves worrying about that you may  also have considered as well as truths you should know about those fears.

1. I don’t know where or how to start. It’s so overwhelming, and I don’t have the energy to figure it out.

It is okay to start small and take baby steps. There is no need to add extra stress to what you are already dealing with by worrying about creating a detailed recovery plan or trying to self-diagnose. Maybe you could start by telling one or two people you trust or checking out a trustworthy mental health website like Beyond Blue.

As for getting treatment, your local doctor can be a really good place to start if you are not sure about what kind of help you need or who the local mental health professionals are. General practitioners usually have enough training to make a basic assessment of what you are dealing with and should be able to give you a referral or recommendation for the right type of mental health professional in your area.

If you are a student, your school may have a health and wellbeing office that provides counselling services or can point you to the right service providers off campus.

2. I’m scared people will think I’m weird if they find out I’m being treated for mental illness or emotional issues.

I can’t promise you that you won’t find people out there who don’t understand. Some people do unfortunately remain misinformed or are just jerks. But I think you’ll be surprised at the open reception you may get when you open up. So many people have experienced mental illness themselves at some point in their lives and so are able to empathise with you. It happens to people of every age group, ethnicity, occupation, and religion. Many others who haven’t personally suffered know people close to them who have.

When I started talking about my own experiences, I was surprised by how many stories I heard from other people about their experiences of different types of mental illnesses and treatments they or someone they loved had undertaken.

3. Counselling sounds awkward and embarrassing. They might bring up subjects I don’t want to talk about.

I totally get the not being keen on spilling your life story to a stranger concern. Despite the impression you might get from talk shows, I don’t think there are actually many people who enjoy sharing the secret or painful parts of their lives with strangers! While counselling might bring up some difficult issues, mental health professionals are not trying to make you unnecessarily uncomfortable. A good counselor will be doing her best to only ask questions that will be helpful, and she will be sensitive to how scary and awkward some things can be to talk about. If she does ask something you’re not comfortable answering, it’s totally okay not to answer. It is also okay to try more than one counsellor to find one you are comfortable with.

4. I might have to take medications or treatments with horrible side effects.

The possibility of needing medication is a prospect that scares many people seeking help for mental health issues. Like any medications, it is true that medications targeting the brain can sometimes have side effects. However, there is a lot of research and refinement going on with psychotropic medications, so the options are much better now than what you might have heard from people who tried them years ago. Your health provider will be aware of possible side effects and will work with you to find the option and dose.

You don’t need to be concerned about medication changing your personality. You’ll still be yourself while taking medication, just hopefully a happier and clearer-thinking version of yourself.

If the possibility of taking medication is concerning you, you might want to check out Kristen’s great article on the topic.

5. I’m afraid I might I lose my job if people find out I have a mental illness.

Many people dealing with mental health issues are still able to be great employees and achieve a lot on the job. If your symptoms are well managed or don’t severely interfere with your work, you may not need to tell your employer or other staff members. If there is some reason you must tell key people at work, it is your right to insist that they not tell staff who don’t need to know.

I would be worthwhile to work with a counsellor or someone who has been in a similar situation to create a plan for handling the challenges of working while you recover or manage an ongoing condition.

It is also worth noting that if you are treated unjustly as a result of your condition, you may be protected under anti-discrimination or unjust dismissal laws.

I hope that helps with some of the things you’re worried about. In the end, what matters is that you are moving in the right direction, even if that movement is slow or faltering. The journey to mental and emotional wellness can be challenging, but it is one worth setting out on.

Image by Dimitri C via Stock.Xchng.

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