Unless you’ve worked hard to change it, “Mental health” is one of those words that leave a bad taste in your mind. The stigma surrounding mental health has been so deeply ingrained into our culture that it shows up in our language, laws, and public perception. Because of this, people, even those with severe mental health illnesses, are unwilling to get the treatment they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives.
The good news is that we have made tremendous progress in breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health in recent years. Many remarkable people have made it their mission to expose and correct mental health stigma wherever they find it, and one of those is Karyna Auletta.
Karyna suffered from a mental illness at a young age and now works as a therapist. Her unique experiences have helped her see from both ends of the spectrum, and she is using that knowledge in her fight against mental health stigma. She plans to achieve this by:
Educating Herself and Others about Mental Health
Fortunately, a lot of the stigma surrounding mental health comes from ignorance and not hate. Karyna has found that people tend to drop any negative perceptions about mental health when exposed to facts about mental health.
That’s why she seizes every opportunity to learn about mental health and teach others. “I plan on traveling and speaking to break the mental health stigma,” she tells me. “I’m also partnering with an amazing therapist and performance coach Kate Cheadle, where we will host a table talk to break the stigma of mental health in various careers.”
Correcting Insensitive language
As a Hispanic woman, going to therapy is frowned on.” Karyna tells me. Many people think it is shameful and it means that you are “crazy”.
But people with mental health conditions are not crazy, and having a mental illness does not mean you cannot live a productive life. Each person is different, and the extent to which their condition affects their function differs.
Encouraging Equality between Physical and Mental Illnesses.
“There is a strong stigma that mental health is for those with “problems” and not just anyone. Therapy should be part of our regular health routine, just like checkups at the hospital. Therapy is for everyone, even therapists.” Karyna tells me.
People should be able to talk about seeing a therapist as they would speak of seeing a doctor. Just like with physical illnesses, people should also be able to get treatment for mental illnesses. Karyna laments the state of public mental health care. “There is not enough state funding for mental health,” she tells me, “which leads to therapists being overworked and not being able to assist people in need with our full capacity.”
Being sensitive towards others’ conditions can be the key to helping them break out of mental health stigma. “Empathy can be such a strong driving force,” Karyna says. Her mission is to teach others to replicate that compassion. That way, people feel encouraged to address their issues without feeling ashamed or judged.
Going to therapy and choosing to be a therapist was challenging for Karyna. Both were highly frowned upon within her community, and it made her doubt herself. However, she said, “my passion for helping others prevailed through the stigma and prevailed through the many years of hard work that was ahead of me.
Karyna hopes to help others do the same and choose empowerment instead of shame. Ultimately, stigma only has power if you let it, and Karyna teaches others how to free themselves.
Rebranding the therapist image
A lot of the stigma surrounding mental health comes from the way people see therapists. “Most people think a therapist is someone with glasses who looks intimidating, is going to judge you, be quiet, uncomfortable and just ask how you’re feeling,” Karyna tells me.
She hopes to correct that misconception and make therapists human to the world. “Outside my profession, I love to be like any other fun 20-year old,” she tells me. “I love to drink, have fun with my friends, travel, and enjoy whatever parts of life may come my way.”
It’s why she loves the Gottman couple and the work they’ve done in rebranding therapists to the world. Karyna hopes to do the same on her speaking tour.
Tackling mental health stigma is a mammoth task. Luckily, we have people like Karyna Auletta taking it on. Her passion for helping people struggling with conditions and her unique perspective on mental health are two things that convince me that she will be successful. She says, “I still hold the same passion and empathy for helping others as I did on the day I found out I was going to be okay.”