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The "Risks" of Mental Health Labels in Building Resiliency

Recently I have been reflecting deeper as to how we are moving in the direction of de-stigmatizing mental health with our communities and society as a whole. Mental health related issues create challenges in people's lives. For some, mental illness may even go so far as to create human suffering in people's lives. Creating a culture and society that has greater empathy and understanding for those who suffer these conditions, as a civil society, make sense.

In our present day society, high emphasis has been committed to the de-stigmatization of mental illness with efforts to integrate into culture a new dominant and normative awareness, sensitivity and compassionate understanding of one's unwanted or painful emotional state.

Professionals today hold a power differential over clients. What professionals say about clients, how they label and categorize clients has a significant impact as to how they come to understand the 'self'.

Often, the labelling or categorizing of clients happens quickly, based on the discourse of the psychiatric DSM manual of different differential diagnostics. It must be noted that the DSM has been found by the largest mental health funding body for research in the US - National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) - to lack validity. ( )

Many mental health labels have been called into question due to the lack scientific validity within the actual diagnostic labels, and yet leaving people to believe that they have a condition where they may not be able to control their emotional states or choices because they have a disease that requires being managed.

We need to first understand our clients' story! What causations have directly and indirectly contributed to how one feels in their emotional state. What parts of causation is left out that limits our understanding such as the role of trauma exposures and victimization, attachment, abandonment, the role of family systems that enable or reinforce their loved ones in their diagnosis, by making the diagnosis central to their relationship, social determinants of health, poverty, lack of connection and isolation and so many other important variables.

When professionals place labels on clients, based on their symptomatic feature, these labels can take on a 'master status' within the individual, especially if their limiting belief system re-enforces 'being broken' leading them to fully integrate this label into their identity, where the label now becomes the identity.

How might the integration of mental health labels impact inner resiliency?

  1. Creates a condition hopelessness

  2. Lowers self-efficacy in the belief that I can get through this

  3. Can be causation for withdrawing and even isolation

  4. Sole focus is placed on the label and it symptoms

  5. Deficits become emphasized

  6. Self-fulfilling prophecy of poor outcome to life

  7. Dwelling on your problems or condition

  8. Resort to unhealthy means to cope such as substances abuse, gambling, porn or food

Resiliency may not make problems go away, but it will give you the ability to see past problems itself and find better ways to cope, and even move forward to change your state. Victor Frankl writes while being locked up in a death camp - “When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves . . . Everything can be taken from a human but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Frankl's focus on gaining inner freedom helped him survive his suffering, and even empowered him. His famous quote here has helped many shift towards overcoming challenging obstacles in their lives, creating resiliency and hope.

Here are ways to build resiliency:

  1. Get connected and STOP isolating or withdrawing - strengthen the friends network

  2. Join support groups

  3. Increase your activation - walking, riding a bike, just move!!

  4. Make everyday meaningful and reward slight to larger accomplishments

  5. Learn from your experiences and the strategies used to get through hardship in the past

  6. Remain in 'hope' and look in the front windshield and not the rear-view mirror

  7. Take care of yourself with daily structure, routine, hobbies, relaxation strategies such as mindfulness, or deep breathing (3/6)

  8. Don't avoid - be proactive and figure out what needs to be done rather than ignoring issues

  9. Get professional help when required

  10. Life is about twists and turns - remember you do not need to drive off the road

  11. Stay away from negativity, including negative people, social media, new or TV

  12. Set small achievable goals daily.

  13. Accept change as part of life

  14. Become self-compassionate, and embrace imperfection with kindness

Be well


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