3 ways You can Help Change the Mental Health Culture Right Now
By Dr. Cristi Bundukamara EdD PMHNP –The current mental health culture and system surrounding care and treatment for mental illness has failed us. Every day we hear things like “suicide rates for teens is highest in Colorado” or “access to mental health care is nearly impossible”. The healthcare system, in general, is difficult to navigate. Add to that the stigma of people already struggling with whether they should seek help or not, and it is a perfect formula for disaster. A friend of mine reached out to me frustrated by the run around her physicians were giving her about seeking mental health treatment. Unfortunately, I was unable to ask her to come into the Mentally STRONG practice here in Colorado Springs, because she lives in another state. It was frustrating and discouraging to listen to and it helps solidify in my mind that mental health culture must change.
To say that changing mental health culture is a huge undertaking is an understatement. However, movements have already started across the country, and I am so thankful for them! If you are tired of how the healthcare system handles mental health treatment and want to see changes, you don’t have to wait for one of these movements. Here are 3 ways that YOU can contribute to changing the mental health culture right now:
Talk About Mental Health: I’ll start. I struggled with an eating disorder in my twenties. I have struggled with anxiety and depression, and I have been on medication. That’s the whole reason I created Choice Mapping in the first place! Help us normalize these conversations around mental health culture. Practice makes perfect! It’s okay if talking openly about mental health makes you feel a little uncomfortable at first. Stress is growth, so in order to grow and change, we need to start and continue talking about these things.
Don’t Own It (Commit to Growing Stronger): You’ll notice in the above paragraph that I stated, “I struggled with…”. I did not say “I am anxious, I am depressed, I have an eating disorder.” You may be struggling with aspects of your mental health but that is not who you are! Let’s change the wording in this culture and that will help change our mindset. We can ALL get mentally stronger. If you have a diagnosis, talk about it! Don’t be ashamed. Just remember, whatever level of function you are currently experiencing, you can improve.
Ask Questions (Do Your Research): I’m not saying to start going to “Dr. Search Engine” for everything. We need providers that went to school for this. If you decide to seek mental health treatment, or if you already have, make sure to ask your provider lots of questions! If you don’t understand how a treatment, therapy session, or medication works, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor. Standardizing mental health treatment is something that I am passionate about, and continuously work to improve. In the meantime, you can make sure that you understand the processes and how these treatments or medications are affecting you.
Mental health is extremely important. We can all be a part of changing the mental health culture. There has been some progress but we still have a long way to go. Make sure to talk about it, commit to growing stronger, and ask questions! These are three simple steps you can take right now. Do you think you can do this? How do you think these strategies can improve your life right now?