Is It a Good Idea to Publicly Share Your Mental Health Issue?

Helping Patients to Understand the Potential Impact of Disclosing Their Condition

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 43.8 million adults in America experience this type of condition each year. That’s one in five adults who share the effects of mental illness on their social lives. What’s more, 18.1 percent of adults live with anxiety disorders each year. These are serious facts that reflect the prevalence of mental illness.

Understanding the Stigma

With its widespread occurrence among adults and children, we might think that some of the stigma associated with mental illness has decreased, especially because of greater public awareness. However, whether you will discuss mental illness is a private matter. Practitioners working with clients can help them to understand the potential consequences of discussing their conditions in public forums. When people understand the situation, they can make an informed decision before talking about mental health issues. Some forums can go viral (i.e. online).

Portraying the Impact of Disclosure

Patrick W. Corrigan, Benjamin G. Druss, and Deborah A. Perlick summed up the effects of the stigma about mental health conditions clearly in their recent article:

“From a public standpoint, stereotypes depicting individuals with mental illness as being dangerous, unpredictable, responsible for their illness, or generally incompetent can lead to active discrimination, such as excluding people from employment and social or educational opportunities. In medical settings, negative stereotypes can make providers less likely to focus on the patient rather than the disease, endorse recovery as an outcome of care, or refer patients to needed consultations and follow-up services.”

So, how will you answer this question for clients: “Is it a good idea to publicly share your mental health issue?

The answer greatly depends on how you approach your clients in terms of providing mental health therapy. On the one hand, your approach may include helping patients getting traumatic issues out into the open, as with Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). However, this usually occurs in a clinical setting. On the other hand, you might help clients develop skills to cope and self-regulate, especially when they experience anxiety or depression and/or physical symptoms of their condition. The goal of mental health therapy, whether medical or psychological, is to help people achieve the highest quality of life available to them given their condition in the quickest, least painful way such as the goal for treatment with an ART therapist. So, discussing their mental health issue publicly may serve a certain purpose. You can’t always advise against it without knowing the facts.

These are some examples of why patients might acknowledge their issues in ways that could become public:

  1. They might join a support group or go on social outings with people with similar conditions or concerns.
  2. They might choose to discuss their condition in a limited forum, such as with friends and family on Facebook, but this information can become public.
  3. They might speak out publicly at a fundraiser or a public forum, which is very common in religious organizations, schools, community centers, and higher education institutions.
    Since there are so many scenarios in which discussing a person’s mental illness is potentially therapeutic, particularly when therapy has proven effective, it’s difficult for practitioners to advise clients for or against it.

Be Cautious
Help clients to recognize the reasons why they might want to share their mental health status with others. Are they trying to help people with similar issues? Are they trying to get help from people in their social network? Do they wish to educate people in their community about living with mental illness? If clients are aware of how their disclosure of private mental health information could impact their employment, education, and social opportunities, they can decide whether it’s right for them. For details, please contact us today.