Mental Health Matters: Overcoming the Stigma

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(ABC 6 News) – Every Thursday this month we’re talking about mental health and why it’s so important.

Now we’re taking a look at the stigma surrounding mental health.

“I don’t know where this stigma started. I don’t know where I noticed it or at what age, but I know that anxiousness and that anxiety of it’s pointless don’t bring it up or just let it go. I know they go hand in hand, I just don’t know when they decided to connect,” CarolAnn Jackson, a mental health advocate said.

Ever since she was a kid CarolAnn Jackson, has cared about other people. She’s an empath. But along with that, came thoughts of loneliness that she just couldn’t shake. She needed help.

“It was a real issue getting help for mental health I think until I was postpartum and I just had my twin girls, I was 19,” Jackson said.

CarolAnn up to this point was managing ADHD and a divorce. She also became suicidal.

But she had those girls to take care of, and knew she needed help. Now she says she’s stronger, but it’s still an every day struggle.

“I feel like this is the most rational my brain has ever been. I still have suicidal thoughts. I still have moments where I worry if I’m going to make it to the morning,” Jackson said.

“Having a conversation allows us to break down the walls of stigma. When you start to address something, the sooner you can get on the path to wellness,” Joshua Jensen, mobile crisis supervisor for Zumbro Valley Health Center said.

Mental Health Minnesota estimates nearly 360,000 people in the land of 10,000 lakes are experiencing mental health conditions that are going untreated.

But experts say the last thing you want to do is wait to get the help you need.

“I know there are people that will go through prolonged periods of time when they’re in that emotional pain, that emotional distress,” Jensen said.

Zumbro Valley Health Center defines stigma as viewing something negatively because of an association of a characteristic or trait that goes along with it.

That stigma is experienced when those who are suffering disassociate from their mental health issues to avoid being labeled as quote “mentally ill.”

Joshua Jensen acknowledges this trend and says the resources you need are out there, you just have to know where to look.

“We have therapy, we have case management, we have arms, psychiatry, we have chemical health services, we have residential services, and we have crisis services. If you feel like something is off, air on the side of caution, go see someone,” Jensen said.

Joshua works in the mental health industry at Zumbro Valley. But he also knows first-hand how people can be impacted by mental health challenges.

“I am diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder. I’m in recovery. I lost my stepfather to suicide when I was 15, mental heath played a significant role in my life. It is something that has encouraged me to in my own experiences, try to lift people up when they need it most,” Jensen said. “Everyone goes through ups and downs in life, when we have hope, we know our pain is going to end.”

It’s that same hope that CarolAnne holds on to each and every day.

“It’s that tiny, itty bitty flickering flame of rationality that can get us through all the darkness,” Jackson said.

For more on our 4-part ‘Mental Health Matters’ visit HERE.