According to Mental Health America, 43.4 million Americans struggle with mental health problems every year. That's a lot. Despite these numbers, there are still many individuals who do not consider their mental health as a cause for concern.
According to BARNA, 21% of Millennials and 16% of Gen X are currently engaged in therapy. For the number of people who have mental health problems, not very many of them are getting the help they need. This is likely due to the stigma our society has about mental illnesses. We have had great strides in breaking these stigmas, but they are by no means gone.
Individuals who struggle with anxiety or depression often stray from defining their feelings in their way because they fear the judgment and assumptions that go along with these terms. This is not to say that people who are sad for a few days should claim to have depression, but rather, that people who have trouble functioning because of their depressed or anxious feelings should talk to a professional and be able to own their problems (if they are problems).
Our world strives for perfection and says that mental illness is a defect, an imperfection. This only leads to a continuous cycle of striving for perfection, failure, disappointment, and worsening mental illness. This societal idealism in conjunction with the ever-growing use of phones and social media lead to a world where no one is immune to anxiety and depression. Most people have experienced some degree of mental illness at some point in their lives and for many, it is a daily struggle.
So if so many people are dealing with these feelings, why do we continue to encourage suppressing them? Wouldn't it be better to support a community who recognizes mental illness and comes alongside one another to encourage and help others heal?
Our world today is painfully self-absorbed. Mental illness should not be something we need to hide.
I have friends who feel the need to refer to their therapy sessions as just "appointments" or "talking to a friend." They take off work and say "I think I've caught what's going around" or "I'm just feeling kinda sick today." These are all ways of beating around the bush and avoiding the issue because we are too ashamed to claim our mental illness as our own or admit that we need help. Perhaps this is not our fault, however, but rather a result of a society who extends grace to physical illnesses, but not mental ones.
In my opinion, being straightforward and honest about your mental illness can be much braver and more effective for healing than hiding it, but this can only truly happen if everyone, those with mental illness and those without, can come together to cultivate a culture that puts the wellness and wellbeing of its people at the forefront of its mind.
What do I want for Christmas? I want people to take a look at those around them and look for ways to build them up instead of dragging them down. I want those with mental illness to be able to claim their diagnosis and not be unfairly judged because of it. I want everyone to be on the lookout for those struggling and seek to help them get better instead of ignoring them and moving on to someone with less "issues." I want to break the stigma of mental illness.