Everyone should go to therapy. And no, I don’t think each human on this planet is crazy or seriously traumatized. The fact that we associate such a positive practice with such a negative connotation clearly defines the problem in our society –– we tell ourselves that therapy is for the weak and reserved for the ones who cannot handle taking care of themselves, so they have to go the extra mile and pay for help.
According to a recent study by the California Health Care Foundation, about two-thirds of adults in California struggling with a mental illness did not reach out to anyone for support. With students, the issue is even worse –– the rate of attempted suicide rates spiked to almost 20% for high school students in California, yet a measly 4% of these young people were treated by a medical professional, although not the same thing as therapy.
The pandemic made the situation so much worse. When schools closed and students had to return home for virtual learning, they missed social interactions and the normality of life. Substance abuse, sleep insomnia and worsening chronic conditions all peaked while a survey conducted by Lucid LLC showed that 95% of college students expressed mental health impacts over COVID-19, nationwide. As a result, nearly three quarters of therapists who treat anxiety disorders reported an increase in demand for treatment.
These stark statistics are a cry for help, whether we want to admit it or not. Perhaps the most dangerous part of it all is that mental disorders never go away on their own. Psychologists say that the longer the wait for treatment, the more the illness progresses in someone’s mind. Untreated anxiety may escalate to panic attacks while failure to address trauma can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. Before it is too late, we need to provide the resources to those who need help and even to those who don’t think they need help even though they do.
The issue stems from when we were at a young age, contaminating our minds to believe all the wrong things. Influence from social media, movies and even local communities stigmatize treatment like therapy. Childhood movies have themes that suggest kids should stay away from people who seem “mentally deranged” and almost every thriller includes a couple of lunatics locked up in chilling mental asylums.
What the audience fails to recognize is that therapy serves people in immeasurable ways and is not only there to serve the needs of the crazy. Even though this may be surprising to some, the ones who are struggling aren’t just those who have serious mental health issues or have a history of suicidal ancestors.
Rather, they are just normal people who have been beaten up too much by the degrading aspects of life. All most people want is someone to listen to them and they’re struggles –– especially if the listeners are certified in dealing with these crises.
Oftentimes vulnerability is both the best step, as well as the scariest one to take. With more and more students –– including those living in high pressure environments –– looking for help, it opens up a new window to a healthier future both for the mind and body, perhaps improving society as a whole.
For Paly students, reaching out to staff at the Wellness Center or to trusted adults and friends can be immensely helpful. The overwhelming stress of school and social life among other damaging aspects of student life can be cut down, at least by a little, if we start offering therapy to all. As the saying goes, “The key to a healthy life is having a healthy mind.”