shamelessnessWe think it’s about time for a little shamelessness.

We have spent our entire lives trying to help people with moods find happy, satisfying lives. Honestly, one of the biggest challenges that we face is the shame and stigma that accompanies, for so many of us, any thought about depression or bipolar, or any of the other labels that we can apply to folks with mental health issues.

This past week, we had a chance to get together with a young man who has been dealing with bipolar for most of his life. He told us that people his age (in his early 20’s) at least those living in relatively liberal areas, don’t really have the same feelings of shame about depression and bipolar. Maybe it’s because of all the Facebook and Twitter posts and all the other ways of sharing information that they’ve grown up with, but they are much more comfortable talking amongst themselves about the challenges that they face, the medications they’ve tried, the psychiatrists that they’ve visited, etc. That doesn’t mean that they are completely open to talking about the subject. He is much more careful about what he says when he speaks to those who are older than that.

On the one hand, we were so happy to hear about this change. We’ve been observing the same thing taking place gradually over the years, but this attitude seems like a big step forward. On the other hand, it made us feel a little bit sad that us older folks haven’t been able to take the bull by the horns and talk about these issues more openly.

It is one of the interesting features of the emotional shame is that it distorts reality when we experience it so much that it makes it hard to imagine a world without the feeling of shame.

On a number of occasions, however, running into someone who is especially shameless talking about a taboo subject, we’ve been impressed by how much of a sense of relief there is when we realize that shame doesn’t have to dominate our lives.

It’s about time for some shamelessness with regards to mental health.

It was a lot of shameless behavior that allowed us to move beyond the devastating stereotype and stigma associated with being gay or lesbian. The process of “outing” people who were closeted, the message that is as important to tell people one’s sexual identity to get homosexuality out of the closet and make it acceptable in society as a whole.

We think it’s time for more shamelessness about mental health.

For many years, we have supported the silver ribbon campaign to fight stigma against disorders of the brain. The campaign is ointly sponsored by neurology support groups, and psychiatry support groups.  It’s a great idea, but we’re not sure that the gentle act of handing out silver ribbons is going to be enough to bring society closer to the goal of being able to talk about these issues in a way that will free us from being trapped by them.

So often, in trying to help with depression or bipolar, a key issue is this issue of shame and stigma. Shame and stigma make it very easy to decide to stop getting help, to stop medications that seem to be working, not to talk to people who could provide us with support, etc., etc.

We think it’s about time for a little bit of shameless. How about you?