Let’s start off by stating that there is a difference between Mental Health and Mental Illness. Every single person has mental health, much like everyone has physical health. Everybody does and will continue to experience some form of mental health problems throughout their lifetime, as will they experience some form of physical pain. It is just a part of life. However, it is not necessary that everyone will experience a mental illness.
You’d assume that since everyone has mental health, it would be something that is commonly understood, valued, and discussed. But rather, it is quite the opposite. Unfortunately there is still stigma attached to the idea of mental health issues. People refuse to ask for any sort of assistance because of the biggest disease of them all “what will other people think or say.” So rather, we sit at home and suffer in silence and have our easily treatable mental health issues deteriorate further. Is that not worse? Or the fact that some parents essentially would rather live in denial that their child may be experiencing challenges of some kind, than to go seek support and aid their child early on. I completely understand where people come from when it comes to fearing the idea of seeking support but is it not more disheartening to deal with it alone and go a lifetime without finding a solution?
The biggest thing that people need to realize is that every single person walking on this Earth is facing some sort of a challenge; mental, physical, social, financial, etc. Some can just hide it better than others, or maybe they have certain people they can turn to for support so they are able to manage it better. But regardless, everyone is going through something. What does that teach us? Well I’d say it should teach us kindness, respect, love and patience. If we looked at others as if they were a reflection of ourselves, then maybe we could do this more easily. Even to unkind people. It is obviously easier said than done at times, but it comes down to being mindful about yourself, others and the environment.
Why do we hold back on openly talking about mental health issues?
There are many reasons that prevent people from sharing their stories. Some of which include:
- Misheld beliefs on people with mental health issues, and misheld beliefs on mental health professionals. These beliefs often are not based on anything that we personally may have experienced, but rather the information that has been passed on to us from older generations. It is important to understand though, that a lot of what our parents and grandparents grew up knowing, is now outdated. Things have changed. Times have changed. People are coming around and are more accepting of discussing mental health now. So TALK ABOUT IT! Find solutions, find coping mechanisms that work for you, heal, and help others heal.
- We concern ourselves too much with what other people will think or say, rather than focusing on overcoming the present challenge that is occurring in our mental bodies.
- We are too judgmental of ourselves, as we are judgmental of others.
- We are not ready to deal with our personal issues, so we distract ourselves through drugs, alcohol, relationships, etc.
How can we go about ending the stigma?
- Accept it. Accept when something is beyond your control. Accept it by telling yourself, “this is too much to handle alone, I need to talk to someone.” Accept that we, humans, are more similar than different.
- Talk openly about mental health. Share your story; this not only will provide you with an opportunity to heal but also to help others struggling with similar issues.
- Educate yourself and others. If there is something that you don’t understand about mental health or mental illnesses, learn about it so that you can be made more aware. Then, take on any opportunity to educate others.
- Understand and raise awareness on the importance of physical AND mental health. If you do not feel good about yourself physically, it will affect how you feel about yourself mentally, and vice versa.
- Show compassion to every living being. A single act of kindness can go a long way.
- Be conscious of language you use in your day-to-day life. Sometimes the things we say in public may seem like nothing to us, but can seriously trigger someone who may have overheard your conversation. Oh and referring to people by a label/mental illness also doesn’t help very much either! Be conscious of your language.
It is one thing to raise awareness on mental health by using the #BellLetsTalk for example, but a totally different thing when it comes to actually supporting a close friend or family member. It is difficult to talk about mental health because we often do not want to say the wrong thing, or misguide someone. However, what matters most to someone seeking support is for them to know/feel that they are heard, valued and loved. It may just be your presence that gives them the comfort that they need in that moment. So don’t worry about making mistakes. Give your undivided attention (that means put your phones away!!), and show them that even though you may not have all the answers, you will support them as much as you can.
Mental health issues will affect every single person over the course of their lifetime, so please take some time to educate yourselves on how to support one another, or at least know of some resources that may be helpful.