Erase the stigma of mental illness

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After the loss of Anthony Bourdain, a lot of Millennials experienced a deep woe. As it is, many of us struggle with finding a vocation that brings us true happiness. We’re raised with the idea that we can do whatever we want. And more often than not, we’re told that true happiness is in exploration, cultural enlightenment, travel, and self-growth. And so naturally, in the wake of Bourdain’s death, a sentiment heard often is, “Anthony Bourdain was rich, a lively person, and traveling the entire world… he had everything, but he was unhappy. What hope is there for me?”

When I hear this, I cannot help but push back. The bigger question here isn’t what does this mean for the rest of us, but rather, how can we make sure as a society we’re creating a safe space to speak up when we aren’t feeling mentally well?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2016 an estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represents 6.7% of of all U.S. adults. What this low figure tells, screams in fact, is that several of these episodes go unreported. Mental illnesses are incredibly prevalent in the United States, affecting tens of millions of people a year. However, a incredibly low percentage of people seek the support needed. The stigma associated with having a mental illness is so strong, it overwhelms people who very desperately need and want help.

Can you imagine a world where someone was criticized for having asthma? No, right? Why do we live in a world where someone is criticized for having anxiety? Both are happening within the body, one is impacting the lungs and the other is impacting the brain. It’s interesting that it’s easy to speak up when we are physically ill, but difficult when we are mentally ill. We need to create an environment where mental health can be openly talked about without it being seen as a weakness.  We need to erase the stigma of mental illnesses.

RIP Anthony Bourdain.

For those of you not at your mental best, some words of encouragement:

  1. Have faith in the fact that you are not alone. I think sometimes this is one of the scariest feelings. That you are alone in this. And you aren’t. No matter how lonely you feel, you’re not. Someone out there wants to hear you out. Someone out there loves you so much. Someone out there is even feeling similar things that you’re feeling. You are not alone.
  2. Talk about it, when you’re ready, with someone you trust. I promise, there is someone out there who wants to hear you out and is desperate to hear you out. And if you don’t want to talk to someone you know, please use sources like the National Alliance on Mental Illness to get the conversation started. There are credible organizations trained to simply listen and help you when you’re ready. Please take advantage of these sources. Please speak your truth.
  3. Take the healthcare route that is best for you. Sometimes there is a stigma behind taking medication that you might need to live a functional life. It’s absolutely okay to take medicine if it will improve your quality of life. Always evaluate what will lead to a choice-filled and beautiful quality of life.
  4. Love yourself and trust that you will overcome at some point. If not tomorrow, next week, or a year from now, you will find a management technique that will suit you. Love yourself and show yourself the patience that you deserve.
  5. Take a ME day. This is for everyone, even those of you who feel you’re fine and have never been mentally ill in your life. We’ve all had mentally ill days, just like we’ve all had physically ill days. When you’re not feeling your best, take the ME day that you deserve. Take care of yourself.

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