Facing mental health challenges isn’t easy. Even though one in five Americans lives with mental illness, experiencing it for yourself can be very difficult to accept.
Over the last several decades, the stigmas surrounding mental health have started to wane. However, this is not wholly widespread, and many people still hold biases. In fact, it’s possible to have a mental illness yourself and still feel biased or ashamed.
It can take a long time for someone experiencing symptoms to find the strength and courage to seek help. It’s easy to tell yourself that it will pass, that what you’re feeling isn’t real or that if you work harder, it will go away by itself. And, unfortunately, making the choice to enter treatment can be even harder if the judgment of friends or family is expected.
If you’re worried about entering treatment due to the concerns of those around you, your apprehension is perfectly understandable. However, overcoming a fear of getting help is an important part of the road to recovery — and an important part of changing attitudes toward mental health.
Friendships and Mental Health
Unfortunately, if symptoms of mental health disorders arise, the best friends in the world can’t be the cure. Seeking treatment from a qualified professional is the single best way to get a diagnosis and manage symptoms. This can be a hard step to take under some circumstances, especially when fear of judgment from a close circle of friends becomes a point of concern. When support of loved ones plays such a big role in life, any threat of losing that can have an influence on future actions.
To some degree, a fear of judgment may be warranted, but in most cases, friends will stand by your side, no matter the health challenges you may be experiencing — mental or physical.
Moving Past Stigmas
Stigmas surrounding mental health are unfortunately common. While this has improved greatly in recent years, mental health is still thought of by many people as a lesser complaint than physical health. As such, it’s far more likely that those affected will keep their struggles to themselves or try to suppress them rather than being open and honest.
Changing attitudes about mental health can happen in many ways, but continued normalization can be very valuable. Treating mental health with the same candor and openness we treat physical health, whether your own or that of others, can encourage people to be more transparent about mental health on many different levels.
Instead of hiding your ongoing challenges or pretending they’re not there, try telling the truth to your friends. More than likely, they will continue to support you, no matter what you may be up against. This includes seeking treatment of any kind, from time in a residential facility to frequent appointments with therapists.
Consequences of Mental Health on Friendships
If you think your friends will be stunned when you tell them you will be seeking mental health care, you may be surprised. The people you spend all your time with probably have noticed some of the symptoms you have been feeling and, in all likelihood, are already concerned about you.
It’s perfectly fine to skip social plans a few times, but when depression causes cancellations every time your friends reach out, they’re going to notice. If you are increasingly anxious about different aspects of life, this will be apparent. Should a mood disorder cause your normal behaviors or personality traits to change, those closest to you will be aware right away that something is going on.
The side effects of mental illness could be having more of an impact on your friendships than you may realize. Getting help can actually improve your relationships with your friends, helping you make your way back to a healthy and happy headspace.
Explaining Treatment to Your Friends
If you choose to seek treatment for mental health, you may want to tell your friends at some point. To make the conversation as truthful as possible, keep the following tips in mind.
- Be candid and honest about what you are doing and why; there is no need to act embarrassed about making healthy choices.
- Answer questions as openly as you feel necessary.
- Don’t be afraid to provide your reasons for seeking help; speaking out about your feelings can make getting help come across as normal and expected.
- Let them know how they can best support you as you pursue treatment.
Getting help is a wonderful step to take, so you should never feel ashamed for doing what is best for you.
What If Your Friend Needed Help?
If you are concerned about getting help because you are worried about the judgment of those closest to you, turn the question around. If one of them needed help, how would you react?
If you would treat them with kindness, compassion and concern, they will probably treat you the very same way when you let them know you are seeking treatment. If your friends are good people, they will support you, no matter how you choose to move forward — just as you would do for them.
Getting Help Should Always Come First
If you are struggling to live normally due to the pressures of a mental health disorder, getting help is the most important step. It can be hard to admit that you are at a point where professional intervention is the only way forward, but sooner or later, symptoms can become too much to bear alone.
Seeking treatment should not be dependent on how others will view you but rather how you can better yourself. How others see you, or even how you see yourself, isn’t a good reason for forgoing the care you need. With proper support and a commitment to wellness, it’s possible to feel like yourself again, no matter what that means for you.
If you or someone you love is facing life with a mental illness, getting help can be an essential part of recovery. FHE Health offers a comprehensive approach to mental health care. With a safe, proactive environment that uses a combination of medical, psychological and holistic techniques, we are able to best support those with mental illness in finding the right path toward overall well-being.