Mental health and addiction outpatient services are often located off hospital campuses – the logic being that if they’re out in the community there will be less stigma. Which I think is rubbish. But one trend that feels even worse is the habit of labelling the venues ‘Community Health’.
By not acknowledging what these places are, the stigma of mental health is underlined. Being mentally ill and receiving treatment for it is such a stigmatised issue that we’re too ashamed to be seen going into a place that treats our ills. And that’s not ok.
It’s very rare to be ashamed to walk into a hospital. People go there all the time, to visit relatives, or because they’re ill or injured. Very few people have a problem with that. By highlighting mental illness as different, moving treatment centres off hospital campuses, and then giving them cute little euphemisms, we repeatedly tell the mentally ill that they’re different. And vulnerable people can internalise that without ever thinking about it.
I understand the idea that there are people who want to keep their mental illness hidden, who would feel uncomfortable walking into an honestly-labelled building. A large part of this is societal pressure – when mental illness is so badly understood and accepted in society, no-one wants to admit to their illness for fear of what it might mean to their job, their friendships, and so on. I’m not sure that hiding mental illness behind a wall of euphemisms is the solution though – it just reinforces the idea that mental illness should be hidden.
I don’t have a solution for all this. All I know is that the current system seems to me to reinforce negative ideas about mental health – that it needs to be hidden, that it’s not real the way physical illness is. I don’t know where the change needs to begin. But it needs to start somewhere, otherwise we stay hidden in the shadows of society.