Stigma is always one of the first words that comes to mind when I think of mental health. Many people seem too comfortable using insensitive terms and expletives when referring to someone who isn’t in a mentally healthy state. When we were younger, or even still, we couldn’t complain about how we were feeling but rather sucked it up. This societal norm of not being able to talk about your emotions and not being able to or being weak when asking for help needs to change.
During my freshman year of university, I became friends with numerous people who struggled with their mental health. Some were actively going to therapy and taking prescribed medications as needed, while others didn’t consider therapy for fear of what their peers may think of them. I didn’t know how to tell them that they should do absolutely whatever is best for them, regardless of what others think (and there’s nothing wrong with going to therapy in the first place…those who think so should re-evaluate why they think that).
"maybe the world would be a better place if everyone went to therapy." -unknown
With regards to therapy itself, nearly everyone, no matter how minuscule they may think their problems are, could benefit from therapy. Simply talking through anything that's been on someone's mind with a complete stranger helps them realize trauma they didn't know they had or come to terms with events they've had a hard time accepting. Other skills that people can hone in therapy include managing stress or anxiety, identifying one's needs, communicating effectively, controlling impulses, expressing anger healthily, cultivating compassion, and so much more. Feeling like you need help and support does not mean you are weak.
Circumstances of the pandemic have seemed to make people hyper-aware of their state of their mental health and overall mindset, with all of the time spent at home and/or alone. Hustle Culture was forced to come to a grinding halt for a little while as people learned to transition their 9-5 online. Despite still attending school and/or working from home, many people have come to realize that they simply enjoy having a little bit more free time to themselves and realize the value in more loosely constructed schedules.
Another aspect of mental health that western culture has focused on during the pandemic has been the connection between mental well-being and gender stereotypes. Many recent discussions that have taken place over the past year have brought to light and awareness to the outdated gender roles that younger generations have been trying to break. I remember when I was in primary school, "boys don’t go to therapy” and “boys don’t cry” were both phrases I heard all too often while growing up. Similarly, comments like “girls’ soccer sucks” and “girls aren’t as good at math” were frequent. It wasn’t until halfway through high school that I came to realize how hurtful and ultimately untrue these phrases were/are. This separation and grouping of people by their gender identities is incredibly ignorant. With current movements such as men wearing dresses in the fashion industry and women removing smiley faces and exclamation marks from their emails (because people love telling us to smile!), society as a whole is gradually trying to break the stereotypes traditionally associated with gender and sex. Adding labels, especially harmful ones, to any person or group of people is a tacky practice at the least; incredibly harmful practice at the worst. Break these traditional gender roles.
While it is encouraging to see millennials and Gen Z beginning to become more aware and focused on our mental health, there is still a great deal of work to be done. Spreading awareness about mental health and the very realness of it is important. Reducing and ultimately eliminating stigma surrounding therapy is a great start. And the truth is, what’s on the inside is just important as what’s on the outside. Do what you need to do to care for your mind ♡
Mental Health Resources for those in need include:
Crisis Text Line - a free mental health text messaging service available 24/7 for confidential crisis support.
The NAMI Helpline - (National Alliance on Mental Illness) a free, confidential 24/7 referral and information service. Call 800.950.NAMI
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - a 24/7 suicide prevention network. Call 800.273.8255
A great book everyone will enjoy (and probably cry while reading): Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb