Currently, our society has a deeply embedded negative perception of people who are struggling with mental health issues. I became especially aware of this after a security guard at my school asked me what I wanted to be when I got older. When I told her that I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, her response was “you are going to work with crazy people.” At the time, I was confused as to how clinical psychology and “crazy” correspond with one another. I then wondered if she was referring to psychiatry, which is the study and treatment of mental illness, emotional disturbances, and abnormal behavior. In order for us to make positive strides toward helping those who experience mental health challenges, it is important to educate individuals on the unique roles of mental health professionals. Furthermore, we must examine the ways in which harmful labeling such as “crazy people” perpetuates this stigma. If I could change one thing in the world to make it a more caring place, I would transform the stigma of mental health.
I have chosen to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist because I want to assist those with emotional, mental, and physical conditions and disorders. Having personally experienced emotional and mental conditions of my own, I understand what it’s like to feel hopeless and to want assistance but not pursue it due to the dread of being judged and embarrassed. I believe that everyone should have access to adequate mental health supports. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 1 in 5 Americans is affected by mental conditions. The stigma around mental health is that people who are in psychiatric clinics, hospitals, or therapy are mentally unstable, crazy or out of control. This creates a branding of shame, fear, and silence for those who have mental health conditions, preventing them from seeking help and treatment. This can also cause individuals to feel as if they are imprisoned in their own bodies and minds because they feel they have no other option. With the help of caring and qualified mental health professionals, one can learn the tools to persevere. Psychiatrists and psychologists help people manage their thoughts and feelings through various techniques. The goal is to empower these individuals to get to a point at which they’re able to function in a healthy and productive way.
I plan to help create this change by campaigning for a mental health awareness program to be part of hospital staff training, employee training, and academic curricula. This program would include information on the signs and symptoms of mental conditions, the stigma of mental health, the importance of spreading awareness on mental health, and a list of organizations that people with mental health conditions could reach out to. This would eventually lead to mental health awareness being addressed nationwide. I would travel to various locations where the program is being implemented to deliver presentations. I would also like to be able to track and report on the program’s impact. Through my efforts, the number of individuals facing mental conditions would decrease significantly. Once we reach a point at which individuals facing mental conditions have equitable access to these support services and can be themselves without fear of judgement, the world will have become a more caring place.