Therapy. There, I said it. A word that, despite its immeasurable benefits, carries the heavy weight of unrelenting stigma everywhere it goes.
In the industrialized world, 25 per cent of adults experience significant mental health problems each year that require intervention in the form of psychotherapy and/or medication. In particular, university students are disproportionately affected by mental health issues such as anxiety—with 56.8 per cent of McGill students reporting a mental health disorder in 2021. These shockingly high rates are largely attributed to the extreme levels of academic stress that university students experience.
While mental health conditions make up an incredible 14.3 per cent of deaths worldwide, according to one estimate, the majority of adults suffering do not seek treatment, citing self-doubt and the fear of judgment from those around them as major deterrents.
Such feelings of self-doubt are becoming increasingly common amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health impostor syndrome, when someone feels like they are not “suffering enough” to seek mental health treatment, is one of the most common modern-day barriers to accessing care.
In stark contrast to the stigma surrounding mental health, societies around the world place significant importance on physical health and wellness. From going to the gym in the mornings to brushing one’s teeth twice a day, to routine checkups at the doctor’s, people spend hours every day preoccupied with their physical bodies.
Yet, when it comes to their minds, people are less willing to take preventative measures to invest in their mental wellness. Mental health challenges can be as severe and as deadly as physical ones, and the two can even exacerbate each other..
When it comes to treating mental illnesses, it has been shown over and over that the most effective means is therapy, while therapy paired with medication is more effective than either method alone.
Despite initially being designed to help people struggling with mental health issues, therapy can provide anyone with a plethora of techniques to enhance their daily life. From distraction strategies like stress-relieving activities to breathing exercises and mindfulness, therapists can offer a personalized toolkit to help better manage one’s unique challenges. Further, therapists are trained to be unbiased and confidential listeners that can aid in navigating a broad scope of circumstances.
Think of the number of times that you have been to your family doctor for routine checkups or mild symptoms like a sore throat or cough. Just as we go to our family doctors when we are feeling physically well, we should encourage the practice of going to a therapist when we are feeling mentally well. Attending therapy regularly can help alleviate future mental health crises while identifying particular issues that one may need to work through.
Regardless of society’s portrayal of therapy as something reserved for those with the most severe mental illnesses, everybody can benefit from the techniques and tools that a therapist can provide. Even those who do not feel that they need therapy could always benefit from adding another caring and supportive individual to their circle of trust if they are able to do so.
It is important to acknowledge, however, that therapy is not available to everyone for various reasons, including economic and accessibility factors. Reaching out to mental health professionals and taking the first step can feel impossible when therapy sessions in Montreal range from $90 to $150. However, there are networks that offer sliding scales and accommodations based on income level and identity.Otherwise, there are other options for students in Montreal, such as the Canadian Mental Health Association and a range of telehealth services. With offerings ranging from free phone and in-person services, there has never been a better time to reach out for help.