Having a discussion about mental health is so important, I see posts about self-care on Twitter probably every other hour. Am I the only one who feels like this discussion rarely transcends social media?
(All photo credits go to the respective owners. Tweets are not mine.)
Don’t get me wrong, social media users unashamedly admitting to their own struggles is one of the most effective methods to get rid of the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses. But, it can’t stop there.
We, specifically Millennials and Gen Z, live in an era where it is more common to normalize mental illness in the best and worst ways. The best way is talking about it and not making those who are neurotypical the standard. We should encourage healthy coping mechanisms and relationships, but be understanding of those who are, at that moment in time, not capable of supporting those notions. The worst way is when someone tweets or texts a friend about being depressed or anxious and all they get in reply is a simple, “LMAO SAME”. I am entirely guilty of doing this, I won’t lie. Passing off a loved-ones struggle as normal or common down-plays the severity of their emotions and yours as well. Those who are mentally ill should never feel looked down upon or like a caged animal in a zoo, but we cannot normalize this to the point of becoming desensitized.
I’m not innocent here, I have just recently come to terms with my own complicity in this toxic cycle. What we can do, is keep talking about it on social media. Reach out to our friends regularly, even the quiet ones, even the happiest ones (cheesy, I know). Listen to them, have them listen to you if they’re up for it. It won’t hurt them or you. It is a priceless and selfless act to do so.
While the younger generations acknowledge mental health, older generations tend to ignore it. I’ve noticed in teachers and even my own parents the connotation they carry about mental illnesses like depression. It makes them uncomfortable. I remember six or so years ago, my sisters best friend was struggling with depression and eventually began to self-harm. Her friend eventually opened up about it. When my mom found out about it, she and my sister were both very upset by this and did what they had to do to ensure she could get better with the help of her own family. This isn’t the part I remember the most, I remember my mom not wanting me, an elementary schooler at the time, to know about this. I found out anyway. It seemed like a very scary situation, and it was. Yet, it felt so criminal to be mentally ill. Now, I know my mother was just concerned but it was still hard to grasp at that age. Then, I wish we had the chance to talk about it openly. Things have changed since that time and my mother has learned how to have unfiltered talks with us but also I’ve gotten older.
I can’t say with a hundred percent certainty that her teaching me about mental health and self-harm at such a tender age would’ve done any good. Especially the darker aspects. Although, I do believe opening the lines of communication will help children everywhere no matter what age. I think parents should learn how to talk about depression at the dinner table. I think it shouldn’t be a shameful or criminal topic. Starting a conversation about the importance of not only physical health but also mental health will save many lives. I mean you encourage children to eat your vegetables, why wouldn’t you promote healthy relationships, coping mechanisms, and overall well-being?
I’ll talk about this more in a later post but many people blame school shootings on the lack of mental health education in schools yet don’t teach their children about depression or fight for mental health programs within the brick and mortar education system. Ironic, wouldn’t you say?
Sure, we teach kids not to bully. We tell them to report problems to the adults. But we rarely touch on how to handle bullying as a young, developing mind. We will take preventative measures but not corrective ones. It is a cursed system.
In all honesty, a conversation while eating dinner with your family or friends can teach empathy and compassion. You’re never too young or too old to learn! Start the conversation.
What do you think about mental health? What do your parents think, did they ever talk to you about it? Has your school given mental-health the time it deserves in the classroom?