Seeking help for mental health issues is shrouded with stigma, but getting treatment is far from weak—it’s wise. That’s what Kate Middleton said in a podcast released by a mental health charity on Sunday.
The podcast was the first in a series created by the Duchess of Cambridge and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families to help parents make the best choices regarding their children’s mental health. Middleton reported that one-third of adults would be too embarrassed to seek professional help for a child with mental health issues. But when it comes to George and Charlotte, Middleton said she “wouldn’t hesitate” to do so.
Middleton’s message doesn’t apply only to family dynamics, though; it’s important for us all. Almost 20 percent of Americans suffer from some mental health condition, but only 41 percent get treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. If mental health conditions are so common, we should certainly become comfortable discussing them, both with children and among ourselves so that social stigma doesn’t inhibit anyone from seeking needed help.
In a video for another mental health charity released in February, the duchess made a telling point about treating our minds with the same respect we give our bodies. “Mental health is just as important as their physical health and deserves the same quality of support,” she said. “No one would feel embarrassed about seeking help . . . if they broke their arm.”
An article from the Journal of Counseling and Development says social stigma is “one of the most significant barriers to treatment.” When we become more comfortable talking about mental illness, those suffering from it will be more willing to seek treatment without fear of judgment. Only when they seek professional help can they get crucial treatment, whether it’s therapy or medication. As Maria Becker has written for Verily, she tried everything to cope with her anxiety, but it wasn’t until she was willing to risk the stigma of seeking professional help that she was able to take medication that reduced her symptoms.
We know the royal family carries weight when it comes to PSAs. Prince Harry’s HIV test earlier this year resulted in a fivefold increase in one charity’s testing orders. So here’s hoping that a more open conversation about mental illness from Middleton could have the same effect.
As important as getting professional help is, finding others who are going through the same experience as you can also go a long way toward improvement. People suffering from physical ailments find support groups, so it would make sense that those with mental illness would benefit from the same. Though Middleton may be speaking in hypotheticals when it comes to her children and mental illness, she’s still sending a strong message that we all need to support each other. Finding a support system not only provides the opportunity to discuss treatment options, but it can also remind you that you’re not alone.
The duchess is just the latest of many celebrities to start changing the conversation surrounding mental illness. The first step toward making sure we and our loved ones seek necessary treatment is to believe that looking after our mental health isn’t something to fear or avoid. Taking care of ourselves is always worth it.
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