Being honest about mental health issues important

Several years ago, after a crisis event, I shared with coworkers how helpful it was to see my own psychotherapist.

At the time, I shared this personal information in an attempt to help my colleagues feel safer accessing their own mental health provider. After my disclosure, I was approached by another professional who warned me not to share that I see someone for my mental health. They suggested it would hurt my career and detract from my credibility.

It was the first time I had ever considered the reality of stigma concerning accessing mental health services. It made me acutely aware of what my patients go through daily. Gently, I explained to my coworker I was okay with sharing that I see a local psychologist. I asked them if they see a primary doctor. They replied, “Of course.” I asked them why, since they appeared healthy.

They stated, “Just in case something goes wrong. I have someone I’m connected with who knows me. I want early intervention.”

I responded, “This is the same reason I work with a mental health provider. Even when I’m at my most healthy, I continue to periodically see a psychotherapist. I want to have someone who is familiar with me. Someone who I have a relationship with that I trust. Someone who understands the care I need.”

Stigma can be defined as a set of unfair beliefs designed to disgrace someone based on another’s prejudice or opinion. These opinions are powerful. They contribute to shaping and molding how we view ourselves and others.

Stigma is one of the primary barriers to people accessing mental health services according to the Centers for Disease Control. In a recent report by the CDC, “Stigma causes needless suffering, potentially causing a person to deny symptoms, delay treatment and refrain from daily activities.Stigma can exclude people from access to housing, employment, insurance, and appropriate medical care. Examining and combating stigma is a public health priority.”

According to the Wisconsin Initiative for Stigma Elimination, the best way to help end stigma is one story at a time. This does not mean everyone needs to tell their story or broadcast their mental health experiences. It simple means for some people there will be a right time and place to share their story.

This is why I choose to share part of my story today.

It is responsible and healthy to see a mental health provider for stress, depression, anxiety, grief, substance use or just because you need a kind ear. I am not ashamed to be a person who sees a mental health professional. I take pride in taking care of my mental health and I hope you do too.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about mental health stigma elimination they can contact Jonathan Tyler at Aurora Health Care 920-451-5578 or jonathan 

Jonathan Tyler is a member of the Aurora Behavioral Health Services team in Sheboygan and a member of the HSC2020 Mental Health Committee.