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Sandra Dean – Registered Member


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Mental health stigma, social media and counselling therapy

mental health stigmaMy mum was diagnosed with Catatonic Schizophrenia in the 1950’s and went into an asylum, which later were called psychiatric hospitals. There was a lot of stigma and I remember when I was six in 1979, word got out of my mum’s last stay in a psychiatric hospital and some children would chant about it to me, whilst some of their mum’s avoided contact with my mum leaving here standing alone at the school gates. It was a sad and confusing time for me, and most likely horrid for my mum, but she would never acknowledge any of it to me, despite me visiting her at that time when I was six. Maybe she thought I would forget, but I never could.

Thankfully, sigma today is being challenged by many, including myself in books, articles and using my voice, and so when I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I did not go to an asylum, I received medication, groups psychoanalysis and individual talking therapies. I got better. 

There is still stigma around, and as an integrative counsellor, I do notice that just a few of my clients still do not tell their loved ones about their therapy for fear of stigma or what they perceive as a mental weakness. This is managed in our sessions so that the fear of judgement is dealt with, but across the population in the UK, particularly in the older generation, many still feel that one should ‘Just get on with it’ or ‘pull yourself together’. 

Despite the many negatives of social media, mental health and well-being are discussed by a large amount of people, via personal blogs, posts, discussions and charities like ‘Time for Change’ sharing mental health stories etc. on Twitter and Facebook. The promotion of well-being is also a hot topic, with mindfulness, meditation, exercise, yoga, nutrition and relaxation holidays being some of the most popular sub topics talked about. I mainly use social media for the promotion of my memoirs, self-help book, fiction and my counselling promotion, so over the past eight years, I have seen this increase a great deal. Instagram is not one of these – in fact, Instagram is more negative to mental health than positive generally, due to the use of glamorous photos and people comparing themselves to others. 

I am noticing more young people coming to me for counselling in recent years, wanting to solve their anxiety and low mood issues earlier rather than later, so this shows me that the perception has changed a lot even since I was in my twenties in the 1990’s.

In my counselling practise, I utilise, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (when behaviours related to thoughts is causing issues), Psychodynamic (when it is clear core beliefs, behaviours or thoughts could be related to childhood) and person-centred generally. I also use mindfulness techniques, positive psychology and writing as therapy to promote better ways of living especially to clients with low self esteem and self care. This is generalised, but all of these therapies have helped me in my own recovery of multiple mental health issues, and so I stick with what I know can work. 

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