Updated: Feb 14, 2020
Why do we shy away from mental health? Even as awareness grows and more celebrities, athletes and corporate leaders speak out about their personal experiences and the importance of mental health treatment, stigma still exists.
It isn’t because mental health isn’t an issue for most people. Research actually points to the contrary. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental health illness and depression is the global leading cause of disability (World Health Organization).
Dare I say, based on this information and other research like it, it sounds as if struggling with mental health is pretty, well, normal?
Despite this, people talk about mental illness in lowered voices. Friendships end if one person is “too needy or sad” and unable to do what they once did, social media rewards happy, curated lives, and families treat mental health struggles as secrets. Hell, even mass shootings are blamed on mental illness by some (here). These reactions perpetuate a duality that creates a culture of shame and fear around mental health conditions.
Without increased safety, and acceptance around emotional health, people often suffer in silence. Research has shown an average of 11 years between onset of symptoms and treatment. Could you imagine breaking your arm and avoiding the doctor for 11 years? And worse even, could you imagine fear of judgment for wanting treatment for the pain? I can’t.
We desperately need to increase awareness, education & work to change our reaction to mental health conditions. A culture of support and compassionate would go a long way. While the global conversation continues to need work, we can all lead by example. If you need help, go out and get it. If someone you love needs help, be an advocate and encourage them to seek support. Listen, and be aware of the way you respond to your emotional pain and the pain of others. Small steps lead to big changes.
Your voice and actions are powerful, and you can make a difference.