Mental health: why is it so hard to talk about it?

Mental health: why is it so hard to talk about it?

While never before have so many people suffer from stress and anxiety, and more generally from mental disorders, the government has launched a national campaign to invite everyone to dare to speak out about their illness during the mental health awareness month. However, it is often difficult to talk about this topic. Explanation with Mark Laflamme, psychologist.

What keeps us from talking about our mental health concerns?

To speak of a mental health concern, whether it is anxiety, depression or mental disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, is to reveal a flaw, to show a sign of weakness. It is not easy to accept to appear vulnerable in our society. But the problem isn't just that you're afraid of being judged. We are especially afraid of weakening our bond with others.

What do you mean by that ?

We are afraid that after confiding in our troubles, the other will no longer trust us. For example, if you say that you are bipolar in your business, people will hesitate to entrust you with important files. This reaction shows that people have a profound ignorance of mental disorders. In fact, just because you have a mental disorder doesn't mean you are irresponsible.

Is it easier to talk to a shrink than a loved one?

From my point of view, most mental disorders are relationship illnesses, that is to say they are a function of the crossing of all the relationships that you have with the people around you, and therefore mainly of members of our family. Confiding in family is therefore often counterproductive. Friends seem to me to be much better interlocutors. Professionals have the advantage of being neutral and external to the situation, while also having the knowledge to help the person.

Is the fear only on the side of the one who confides?

No, indeed, there may be fear on the part of the person you are confiding in. The words of the person speaking find an echo in the one who receives them, there is a mirror effect. And it can be uncomfortable, even scary. If we do not want to wait for what the other has to say to us, it is because we are afraid of contagion. However, if we take the example of anxiety, fear can be contagious, but anxiety not! In fact, being afraid of receiving information says a lot about ourselves and our own fears.

There can also be a misunderstanding ...

Absolutely. This is the case, for example, when a person opens up about their depression. If you haven't experienced it yourself, you don't understand what the person is going through, you want to tell them to shake off, which won't help at all! More generally, this is the problem with mental disorders: they are invisible, intangible, and it is difficult to understand them. However, misunderstanding, like the fear we were talking about just before, reinforces the taboo.

In fact, can a campaign like the one launched at the beginning of April by the government help to change things?

This isn't the first campaign of its kind, but yes, of course, it's always good to get people to talk about their mental health concerns. In my practice, I often see people who are at the end of their rope, who have waited too long to ask for help. It is unfortunate to come to this when it is possible to act sooner. However, inviting people to speak is not enough: prevention is also psycho-education.


Yes, we too often use words without knowing what they mean. For example, we think that a schizophrenic is someone who has two personalities, that's not it at all! Or that treating a mental disorder necessarily means taking medication … In France, there is a serious ignorance of the reality of mental disorders, and not only: there is also a great lack of knowledge of the professions of psychology. We can say and repeat what the differences are between a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a psychotherapist … people are always lost, they do not withhold information. But it's so important to everyone that we have to keep explaining it.

Can a series like In Therapy, broadcast this spring on Arte, also help change the image we have of shrink?

Without a doubt ! This series is a success and that is good news. The Arte series is symptomatic of people's interest in how to deal with mental health issues. There are millions of people who consult and millions who don't and who should, not to mention those who think it is useless. So talking about it can help them.

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