Mental health is one of the most prominent issues in today’s society, but it is not addressed nearly enough.
Physical health of all people are generally well-taken care of; almost everybody goes to the doctor’s office for a general checkup at least once a year, and it is accepted and understood as normal by everyone. Meanwhile, mental health is barely ever mentioned in a meaningful context, and there is a certain stigma surrounding it and its treatment. It is assumed that there is something immensely wrong with you if you go to a therapist or rehab because they only treat “crazy” or “disillusioned” people. There is no such stigma about going to the doctor’s.
Mental health’s stigma only increases with silence and the classification of mental health as a touchy subject, which is disastrous considering mental health issues affect such a large population of people. In an estimate by NIMH, 18.5% of American adults are affected by any mental illness in a given year. That’s about 43.8 million people! And millions more when statistics involving teenagers and children are added. One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14, when children and teens are still insecure and extremely subject to bullying and unhealthy societal influences.
Millions of people of all ages are suffering or struggling through life, often on a daily basis, feeling as if they are alone as a result of their mental illness. This stigma isolates them, or rather, us, as we feel as if people don’t understand. Many refuse to seek treatment out of a fear of being subjected to undue judgement from society.
Misunderstandings and ignorance on mental health, fueled by the stigma of it and the refusal to have conversation about it, leads to people further hurting people with mental disorders. We, as a flawed society, tend to come up with seemingly innocuous but truly poisonous comments and questions, such as “Why can’t you be happy?” “Why don’t you be positive?” “Why can’t you just calm down?” “I would never, ever do that” “If I were you, I’d just…” Nobody would ever tell a person with a broken arm to just heal faster. It is illogical and wrong to tell a person to just ignore their chronic migraines, or to dismiss them as simply over-exaggerating their symptoms. It is just as radical, possibly even more so, for warriors battling mental health.
If it takes time to heal physically, wouldn’t it take even more time to heal emotionally? The complexities of the human brain as well as the nuisances of society, from social norms to social stigma to the harshness of social media and judgement from others, ensure that recovery is long and difficult, only eased by help from a therapist or a loved one or friend.
We need to talk about mental health. Not by carelessly flinging around the words “depressed” and “suicidal”, further stigmatizing it, but by beginning open conversation about it. Mental health should not be a touchy subject, one avoided as one avoids talk of politics or religion. It should be required curriculum in schools and an open topic for mainstream media and blogs.
No longer should this stigma remain in place. With the help of society, just as we erected it, we together can eliminate it.
A Girl and Depression,
A Girl and Depression Blog–I’ve had persistent depressive disorder and social anxiety. I’m trying to help break the stigma surrounding mental health.
Mental Health Facts/Statistics: Reality Check
NAMI: Mental Health By the Numbers
NAMI General Facts PDF
NIMH Gov Mental Health Info
Mental Health Stats Huffington Post