Everyone has mental health – but not everyone has a mental illness.
When we make insensitive jokes, self-diagnose ourselves, and romanticize mental illness as being ‘cute’ or ‘quirky’, we further diminish the experiences of those living with true disorders.
There is a lot of misinformation and self-diagnoses in the media and from ‘influencers’ online. Although these people are playing an important role in breaking down the stigma and starting a conversation about mental health, there are many people perpetuating the idea that having a disorder such as anxiety, depression, or OCD is trendy.
- It’s not cute to be depressed.
- It’s not cool to have panic attacks.
- It’s not glamorous to have an eating disorder.
- It’s not romantic to be suicidal.
- It should never be trendy to have a mental illness.
There is nothing pretty about being in pain.
There is a lot of confusion between experiencing difficult emotions and suffering from an actual mental illness. There is a difference between feeling anxious before an exam, and having an anxiety disorder. If you worry about meeting new people at a party on Friday night, you don’t necessarily have social anxiety. If you are sad after a difficult break up, it doesn’t mean that you have depression. In our society there is a huge emphasis on happiness. The reality is that it’s impossible to feel happy all the time and it’s okay to feel sad. In order to appreciate the moments of true joy and contentment, it is necessary to go through hard times that shape your character and develop your resilience and grit.
In writing this, it is not my intent to diminish your lived experiences or to minimize what you are going through. Your feelings are valid, your mental health is important, and you absolutely deserve to get help. As someone who has faced challenges over the years, asking for help and taking action to better myself is the best decision I made. I am grateful for what I have gone through and the person I have become today. We all go through hard times in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we need to go through them alone.
Since today is #BellLetsTalk day, let’s break down barriers and truly further the conversation about mental health. I think that days like today are important in order to open up a conversation that is so necessary. However, I think that sometimes these types of days can actually deepen the stigma surrounding mental health. Today is pretty much the one day of the year when everyone on your social media feed is posting about how important ‘self-care’ is and how ‘it’s okay not to be okay’. Although these are important messages, I think they are often treading lightly around very serious topics and not addressing the real issues. When we post pretty Pinterest quotes about mental health for only one day of the year, we are actually reinforcing the glamorization of mental illnesses.
Today, and everyday, let’s come together to really talk about these issues. Here are a few things that I think are important things that you can do to help yourself and those around you:
1. Educate yourself.
I believe that educating yourself is the number one thing you can do to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness. The one thing that combats stigma and stereotypes has always been and always will be knowledge. If we are aware of what people may be struggling with, we can do our best to support each other and recognize when we ourselves may need help.
2. Fix your language.
Another part of educating yourself is changing the language we use in our everyday lives. You’ve probably seen those presumably innocent shirts with the phrase “cute but psycho” being worn by teenage girls. Wearing shirts like these and verbally throwing out incorrect labels is actually incredibly problematic and furthers the notion that suffering from a mental illness makes you ‘cute’.
3. Understand that “it’s not a choice”.
It it is really crucial to understand that people with mental illnesses never choose to suffer from one. Just as no one chooses to wake up with a physical illness, no one chooses to struggle with a mental illness.
4. Check in on your “strong” friends.
I think that a lot of us have that one friend who seems to be on top of everything in their life and always seems happy. However, they are often the people who may be struggling the most and afraid to show their vulnerability. Make sure you show your friends that you are there to help them and listen to what they’re going through.
5. Practice real self-care.
I think that we all have that “Instagram” idea of what self-care is. However, the reality is that most people can’t get rid of their mental illness by doing face masks and taking bubble baths. Often, healing and bettering yourself takes a lot of hard work, difficult conversations, and self-reflection.
There is nothing glamorous about mental illness – let’s stop acting like there is.
Thanks for joining me on my journey to change the world