We talk about mental health a lot. We talk about what to do if a friend is in trouble. We talk about “speak up-lining” people when they are in danger of harming themselves or others. But, we rarely talk about what it’s like to live with a mental illness.
We never have actual conversations about how depression affects our academic and social lives. Nobody ever mentions the physical effects of anxiety on the body. We have a lot of conversations about mental illness, but not the right ones.
When we talk about mental health in school, we rarely take the time to talk about our own mental health. Often our narrative revolves around the concerned friend of someone who is struggling with his or her mental health, but we rarely touch on what it’s like to be the one who is struggling.
Living with anxiety is difficult. Living with depression is difficult. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, one in five adolescents suffer from a mental illness and half of mental health problems start by age 14. Even if we know some facts about how many teenagers struggle with mental illness, it still doesn’t change the fact that high schoolers at LT only have a three week unit on mental health during sophomore year to give them the information that they need. If mental health isn’t more commonly talked about, it will become more taboo than it is now, and will be ignored in curriculums and the public domain.
While some may see talking about mental health as showing weakness, I see it as a strength. Conversations about our emotions lead to honesty about our struggles in life, which helps us overcome them. Talking about how you feel is scary and makes you vulnerable, but it is also important because it enables you to help yourself.
I have anxiety and depression. I’m not afraid to talk about it because I know that if I speak about my own struggles, other people will feel more comfortable speaking about their own. I set an example so other people can get the help they need just like I had friends who were honest with me about my own struggles to help me feel less alone.
Our honesty about our struggles with mental illness empower others with mental illness and teach those who are neurotypical about the struggles we face. By educating people about what it is like to have mental illness, it can help give them an understanding that can aid them in helping someone down the line.
If you’re struggling with a mental illness, the best thing to do is to seek professional help. It’s scary, but you’ll thank yourself in the future. Talking about your emotions validates them, and can give you the tools you need to live a happy and fulfilling life.
When we talk about mental health, we acknowledge the struggles that some people face in their life. Every time we have an honest conversation about how we feel, we help end the stigma around mental health and it opens doors for all of us to better understand our emotions.