In a society in which social media encourages people to share everything from what they are eating to where they go on vacation and everything in between it is shocking that talking about mental health problems still carry a stigma. According to the American Psychiatric Association about 51% of the U.S. Adult population lives with some sort of mental disorder yet very few are willing to admit they need help for fear of being thought of as less than perfect. In a world that values perfection (or the illusion of perfection) being “less than” is more than most people can bear.
Mental health is an important component to a healthy lifestyle. Positive mental health helps an individual realize their potential, maintain healthy relationships, manage stress, and contribute to society. Talking about such issues is as important as talking about smart food choices or getting the right amount of exercise. Mental health encompasses all aspect of our lives and has a profound affect on those around us, yet we choose to stay silent. Men are thought of as “weak” if they admit to feeling anxious. Women are thought to be “complaining” if they admit to feeling less than happy 24/7. It is ironic that in a society so quick to find the flaws in others, people are afraid to reach out for help for fear of being judged by those that are most likely having similar feelings themselves.
Only by talking about mental health problems will we begin to erase the stigma associated with it. We look at Hollywood as a “perfect” place with “perfect” people so when celebrities such as Carrie Fisher or Catherine Zeta-Jones choose to share their own struggles with mental illness it chips away at the stigma and makes it easier for us to admit to our own battles. The television show “This is Us” shows characters with real problems which is one reason for its immense popularity. People can relate to the struggles of the characters as it pertains to their own lives. This season, the show is starting to delve into the topic of depression with a lead character which will hopefully lead to even more open discussions around the water cooler.
Virtually everyone is touched in some way by mental health issues. The more we talk about it the more it becomes part of everyday life, but we need to choose our words carefully. Referring to someone as “crazy” can perpetuate the stigma especially when it is meant as an insult. Certain words have negative connotations and can do more harm than good. Education is also a key component in destigmatizing these issues. The more we understand the disorders the more we can normalize them. Mental health issues are not just momentary experiences that happen they are just as real as any other illness and should not be trivialized.
While sometimes our mental health can be improved by talking to a friend or looking at effective ways for stress management, there are those warning signs that indicate you may need to seek medical attention or the help of a mental professional. Some of these warning signs are:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Abusing alcohol, drugs, or tobacco
- Fighting more with friends and family
- Considering harming yourself or others
- Feeling fatigued with low or no energy
- Feeling apathetic
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Feeling sad or irritable for long periods of time
- Experiencing excessive amounts of anger, anxiety, confusion, fear, forgetfulness, and worry
- Experiencing extreme mood swings that negatively impact relationships
- Experiencing unexplained physical pain
- Hearing voices or having delusional thoughts
- Withdrawing from other people and social activities
- Being unable to do your daily tasks
The mind is the strongest part of our body. When our mind is strong, we can accomplish anything; when we are struggling, everyday tasks seem monumental. Athletes have long understood the mind/body connection as it relates to their overall performance. Many believe success in sports to be 10% talent and 90% mental. This formula pertains to life as well. Mental health is a crucial part of our overall health and well-being. Let’s talk about it. Let’s not be afraid to ask for help. Let’s change the way we think about mental health. Together we can help erase the stigma.
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