It’s finally May and while that means it’s nearing the end of the quarter (ahh the stress!!), it also means it’s officially mental awareness month. This makes it the perfect time to spread more awareness and break the stigma surrounding mental health, while also checking up on our loved ones and strangers who suffer from mental health disorders that can be crippling. Also, I think it’s important to note that although May is labeled as the official “Mental Health Awareness Month”, it’s only a time to raise more awareness and providing care for those who need it, but we, as a society, should already make it a habit to fight against the stigma and provide a safe environment for those who fight against mental health disorders everyday. So, what’s the importance of this month?
For one, it means being more aware of ourselves and those around us. It’s become sort of a norm to say things like “You’re so bipolar”, without seeing the weight that the expression really holds. Illnesses, like Bipolar Disorder, shouldn’t be used for jokes and I think we need to become more aware of that in our conversations. Phrases such as “I’m so depressed” that have become universal when, for example, people are studying for a test or they’re somewhere that’s really boring, demeans the actual severity of depression. Where there should be immediate concern, using phrases causes further stigmatization and evokes little concern when a teen/adult actually comes forward and says they’re struggling with depression. Mental disorders shouldn’t be treated like a new trend for society to hop on when they’re a crippling experience for people who suffer from it. Additionally, making slight remarks about depression/anxiety and telling people that they should just “cheer up” or simply “get over it”…just…NO!! You can’t tell someone who’s depressed to just put on a smile, try to enjoy themselves in whatever situation they’re in and they’ll instantly feel happy..that’s not how it works. None of us have the right to comment about a person’s symptoms especially if we haven’t experienced the disorder ourselves, because we don’t actually know how our words are going to affect the person suffering from it.
Especially after the events of the pandemic spreading awareness and reaching out to people is extremely important. Due to not being able to see loved ones for so long, so many people have gone into a state of depression, or their anxiety levels have sky-rocketed, and that’s not something that we, as a society, should just think of as normal and walk away from. For example, some statistics say that about 1 in 5 people are diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder after being diagnosed with Covid-19. During these times, being isolated and fearful of the unknown can cause a lot of additional anxiety, so we need to be more supportive of those that can’t help themselves and encourage them that it’s never too late to choose to get some help.
Treating people’s mental illness as less severe than it is will only worsen the situation. Instead of trying to rush the process of what a loved one may be experiencing because their current mental state makes us feel uncomfortable, we need to practice patience and empathy when reassuring them that every step they take, no matter how small, is a tremendous victory. Let them know that they’re not going to instantly feel better and it’s okay to take their time. If you’re suffering from some sort of mental health issues, set some boundaries for yourself, whether it’s physical or emotional. Focusing on your self care and verbalizing your concerns are important aspects of maintaining boundaries and letting people know how you want to be treated, while also taking care of yourself and your needs. To those people who are suffering from mental health issues, be patient with yourself, because your current feelings are valid. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but you will get there. Lets win this fight together.