It would be fair to say that I was figuratively dragged kicking and screaming into the field of mental health. My greatest fear when my foundational practicum placement was confirmed was to be at a subsidized housing building for residents with mental health issues and I would not be adequately equipped with the necessary skills to intervene with individuals that were actively suicidal, which scared me substantially.
Over those 450 hours, I learnt a great deal about myself, as well as the work entailed in this challenging and rewarding field as I left my placement with a genuine interest in mental health, and an ability to manage those responsibilities effectively.
I have since spent the bulk of my career in this field and I can reflect on what an eventful journey it has been from when my placement was initially confirmed as loved ones assumed the worst, i.e. that working with these individuals would be dangerous. I now anticipate a long, rich, and diverse career in the very field that I feared only a few years ago. When I talk to clients and hear the self-stigma of mental illness, I regularly cringe as these individuals do not hesitate to describe themselves in such insulting terms as “f***ed in the head”, “a f***ing lunatic,” etc, often over relatively treatable anxiety and depressive symptoms.
As I reflect on my experiences, I summon mental health professionals to the ever important work of addressing stigma by normalizing mental health as existing on a spectrum for all individuals including ourselves, as each and every one of us experience mental health highs and lows, including stress, grief, insomnia, except those words do not insinuate the same ugly stigma as a severe mental health diagnosis often does within our society. I urge fellow helping professionals to be kind to ourselves, each other and our clients as a compassionate approach is needed to challenge the stigma of mental illness by normalizing the spectrum of mental health.
By Krystal Kavita Jagoo, MSW, RSW- Contributor
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