October 27, 2019
It’s 2019, and the stigma around mental health continues. The words alone are cringeworthy: ”mental health.” Or worse: “mental illness.” You might as well be saying “crazy” or “psychotic.”
The one who suffers must surely look the part. Disheveled. Detached from reality. Mumbling nonsensicalities and gibberish.
The truth is, every one of us exists on a continuum of mental health and unhealth, just as we exist on a continuum of physical health and unhealth. Some of us are healthy, some of us are not.
Mental ailments do not discriminate based on age, religion, ethnicity, gender, education level, or socioeconomic status. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year. Depression and anxiety are among the most common.
Those who struggle do not always appear to be struggling. They may look like successful doctors, teachers, attorneys, and professors. Or perhaps the compassionate pastor, the generous teacher, or the dedicated stay at home mom. It’s the therapist, the newly retired businessman, the farm hand, the daycare provider, and the mechanic.
It could be any of us.
In fact, most of us will experience episodes of mental unhealth at one or many points throughout our lives (yes, even you). It’s part of the human condition.
Some of us were born into a genetic pool in which mental health issues are more prevalent. Nearly all of us will experience one or more losses, traumas, or life transitions. Both genetics and situational factors can contribute to mental health and unhealth.
Clinging to outdated stigmas and archaic understandings of mental health is helping no one. Not talking about something does not dictate whether that thing exists. It simply means it’s not being talked about. What a shame.
What if diabetes or AIDS or cancer were never discussed? Would that mean that individuals who were afflicted by those ailments were not actually sick? Of course not. No one would entertain that argument. So why do we circumvent open discussions and acceptance of mental illnesses? They may not be visible, but they are just as real and can feel just as devastating.
If you struggle with a known mental illness, or if you dare to entertain an open exploration and discussion about your mental health, contact a mental health professional. If you’re not comfortable talking with a professional, start by talking with a trusted friend or family member.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore your mental health. Take care of if the same way you’d care for your body. ⯁
Andrews & Associates Counseling is owned and operated by Dr. Stephanie Wick, who is a long time resident of the Manhattan area. She is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist (LCMFT) and Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor (LCAC) in Kansas.