Words like “depression” and “anxiety” are thrown around so loosely that they’re rarely taken seriously. For people struggling with mental illnesses, myself included, it makes it harder for us to cope when our mental illnesses are treated as if they don’t actually exist or aren’t serious. Mental health needs to be treated as seriously as physical health because, after all, your mind is the reason your body functions.
As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety in the past and still continues to now I am tired of mental health being treated as less important than physical health.
School, work, or any large social gatherings have always been tough for me. My anxiety will kick in, and my mind will shut itself out, leaving me unable to socialize or even complete the simplest of tasks. There have been days where my depression made getting out of bed the toughest part of my day, and sometimes it felt impossible.
School has always been particularly hard for me whether it be the social or academic aspect of it. I was constantly scolded and put down for missing so much school or not having perfect grades because my anxiety and depression would consume me and affect every aspect of my life. Some days it was just hard for me to be around so many people.
Outside of school, my anxiety would worsen when my friends begged me to go to parties or big social events with them. I knew that if I went, I would be miserable, but I didn’t want to be seen as the “boring one.”
Even to this day, when I decline an offer to go to a social gathering or event, I get comments about how I “never go out.”
Getting my first job was a wakeup call. Working at a children’s retail store, you have to adapt to constantly socializing. Over time, it became normal, and I learned how to cope. But, I still had my bad days. It hit me that mental health isn’t taken seriously when I once had to use the excuse that I was physically sick since my anxiety was acting up, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle work that day.
After a while, I realized that I wasn’t the problem. My mental illnesses weren’t being taken seriously.
Too many people, especially young people, are being heavily affected by mental illnesses. Since they aren’t fully curable, I think we need to do more to accommodate and support people struggling with them. When someone tells you they have cancer or you see someone has a broken leg, your first reaction is to want to help and support them all you can, which is how you should feel.
But would you react the same way when someone tells you they struggle with a mental illness? I know from experience that opening up about a mental illness is a terrifying thing and all you want is support. I think a big factor in getting mental health to be treated as seriously as physical health is erasing the stigma that nobody struggles with it.
Growing up, I felt weird and completely alone because nobody ever wanted to talk about mental illnesses and how serious they are. I thought I was one in a million who felt the way I did. Even the people closest to me didn’t fully understand what I was going through. It was hard for me to confide in anyone. For the longest time, I felt ashamed of the fact that I had a mental illness and didn’t know how to cope with it.
When someone with a mental illness opens up to you, be there. Listen to them, and love them. For most people, showing emotion and letting people in is terrifying. They will need all of your support. Refrain from turning their situation around to talk about yourself. Make it clear that they are important and their feelings are valid. Take into consideration that mental illnesses sometimes results in people lashing out, or secluding themselves. Everyone acts and copes differently. Do not pressure someone into opening up. When they are ready, they’ll talk.
Mental illnesses can be just as debilitating as any physical illnesses and need to be treated that way.