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“Mental health”, what are your first thoughts? Go! Whatever they are, I’d be willing to bet they are not images of the everyday people, adults and children alike, who sit across from me in my office on a daily basis. Why am I so sure of this? Because for time immemorial, the concept in air-quotes above has been misunderstood, mislabeled, misrepresented and misdiagnosed.

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked in the community and private practice, I work to undo these misses for my clients so they can realize successful outcomes and become the best version of themselves. To do this with and for a client often requires overcoming these obstacles at every level of interaction on the client’s journey to better health.

The cumulative result of these mishandlings, of both the concepts and the patients, has created a history of a word I hate to use… stigma, surrounding every facet of mental health. As the medical community, government and industry have tried to tackle the perceived increased prevalence of mental health conditions, the misunderstandings of these conditions, and the misconceptions of the patients who suffer them, continue to grow.

We, the mental health professionals, have a duty to our patients, and our profession, to begin to address and unwind the stigmatized understandings we hold and present to our clients when they show the courage to overcome these same stigmas and cross our threshold seeking help. Let’s redefine mental health to make it accessible to everyone!