Get professional help for your mental health - even if you think you don't need it
Credit: LAM LE
Opinion: Even if you think you don't need to go to therapy, getting professional help is beneficial for your mental health.
Between 10 to 20 per cent of youth in Canada face mental illness or a disorder. Canada has the third highest national youth suicide rate within the industrialized world (countries that are more economically developed). For Canadians between 15 to 24 years old, suicide is the second leading cause of death.
The CMHA also said that although getting help can get 80 per cent of people dealing with depression back on their feet after identification, the discrimination and stigma associated with mental illness can block diagnosis, treatment, and community acceptance.
After getting treated for my own issues tied to anxiety and depression through therapy, I can confirm getting help made a difference in returning to who I want to be. I can also say that yes, stigma is a huge reason why I delayed it.
In my six years of post-secondary education, if I felt like a pile of essays, projects, midterms, and/or finals were too much for me to handle, combined with other stresses like sick relatives and balancing extra-curricular activities, my anxiety would go through the roof. Since the nature of the stressful situations are exactly that, I thought it was normal to constantly reach a maximum level of anxiety. When I reach a maximum level of anxiety, I’ll feel depression creep up and consume me, which I thought was OK too.
After I graduated college, I dealt with other tough times in my life and knew I was becoming more cynical and irritable, especially when the odds weren’t in my favour. However, I thought I would be OK after I got my life together, so it was ‘normal’ for me to be angry and ready to fight all the time during the first bit of the post-grad life.
Before realizing I needed help, I thought professional help was only for people in crisis. I know now that’s beyond true.
I look back, and my unhealthy coping mechanisms throughout those six years and beyond, particularly beating myself up with negative thoughts, were exactly that. I never attempted to take my own life, but I’d be lying if I said I never felt like I wanted to die.
There were several other reasons why I delayed therapy, but ultimately, I was too scared about being judged. I worried about being isolated from my friends, and barred from moving up the ladder in a competitive industry after opening up about my mental health. I know being isolated after disclosing mental illness in both personal and professional aspects of life is an unfortunate reality.
Considering I was a new grad facing rejection letter after rejection letter and I felt like I was constantly disagreeing with a few close friends, I thought telling people I was struggling would increase my chances of losing friends and job opportunities.
Over two years and several appointments later, I’m in a much better headspace with a more positive outlook. Neither my career nor my friendships were compromised after I opened up about my mental health. If anything, my mental health became more at ease.
I wish I went to therapy sooner, but I’m thankful I went in the first place. I couldn’t tell you where I would be without it, but I can say that while I still struggle with my mental health from time to time, I’m in a much happier place than I was when I first booked an appointment.
I thought my first appointment would be my only appointment but after rambling about my insecurities, my therapist encouraged me to get back into a self-compassionate mindset, because he could tell I was not.
Along with his guidance, a book he recommended, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself From Destructive Thoughts and Emotions by Christopher K. Germer, gave me clarity on how to take care of my mental health and emphasized how meditation can help shut off racing negative thoughts. I’m still not perfect with self-compassion, but I’m progressing.
Going to therapy helped me identify how my anxiety can present itself, in both good and bad ways, along with what can trigger my anxiety into high gear. As much as I love drinking coffee and interacting on social media, I know there are times when I have to step away from too much caffeine and too much time online.
Although I have supportive family and friends that I can talk to if I have a problem, I’ll talk to my therapist because I know that sometimes, my support circle doesn’t need or even want to listen to my problems while struggling with their own, and other times, I’m not ready to tell them my struggles.
I also feel valid when I talk to my therapist about my problems, who can remind me that no, sometimes I’m not overthinking after all.
For me, advice from a professional is also more effective than anything I’ve read on social media. While I’m certainly happy to see lots of helpful mental health posts with coping strategies and suggestions on when to recognize that you’re struggling, there are a lot of not so great messages that invalidate when you have mental health issues.
Mental illness should not be taken lightly, but we should also recognize when something is out of the ordinary for us, even if our biggest stress at the time is dealing with exams and assignments.
Getting professional help will give you a greater understanding of your mental health, provide clarity to situations, validate your concerns, and present you with a toolkit to work with your struggles outside of appointments.
Where to find help
The Fanshawe Student Union (FSU) website lists on-campus and off-campus mental health resources on fsu.ca/mental-health.
Fanshawe College’s Counselling and Accessibility Services offers free counselling for full-time students, group sessions, and more to help students with their mental health.
If you are in a life-threatening crisis, call 911.