This question came to me as I was once at a party and it had become that part of night where everyone discusses their deep dark secrets. While we were all sitting around in sweat-filled basement taking instagram photos and living the “teenage dream”, we all suddenly confessed. We all had a mental illness.
We were from different walks of life, places, and even schools, but we all felt the need to confess that our brain wasn’t working the way we wanted it to. Some of these people I had known for years, and they never told me. Their shiny outside exterior of perfection cracked open to the real person underneath. Frustrated I yelled out above the music, “Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about this?”
While I do feel that while we as a society have become better at detecting and treating mental illness there’s one thing we seem to lack still; a dialogue about mental illness. I was officially diagnosed with OCD about a year ago. Before then I had the usual diagnosis of anxiety and depression, but it took a serious psychologist to find the root of the problem. The second I found out, I told everyone. It was like when that guy on Spongebob proclaimed the greatness of a crabby patty with jellyfish jelly. As soon as I was given a title, I announced it. However, when the diagnosis was simply depression and anxiety; I didn’t tell a soul. Yet, when I am being open with people, almost everyone confessed they had struggled with mental illness.
Are we just walking by people that are going through the same thing as us? I can understand when people don’t want to open a conversation stating their medical history. However, why can we say casually “I have Diabetes” or “I get migraines" and get sympathy but refuse to say “I have depression” due to stigma? Of course, mental illness being very personal is a factor but it’s important to remember that it’s a medical illness too, with hormone imbalances and symptoms. You should be able to say “I can’t come to school today, I have the Flu,” and “I can’t come to school today. I’m struggling with a chronic mental illness and it’s bad today,”.
What a lot of people find comforting is talking to someone who went through the same situation as them. We should start doing that. We should discuss mental illness with other people. It doesn’t have to be awkward, it can be a conversation. And if people don’t want to discuss it, that’s okay too. No matter your mental illness you should be able to treat it as you treat any other illness. Your brain is a part of your body too.
I understand not bring this up as an ice breaker or even when you sort of know someone. But I have had friends that suffered for years and did’t want to tell me because it was “to awkward”. Mental illness awareness is greater than ever; so should our conversations.
When you walk down the street, know you are walking past people who have suffered the same aliments as you. Know they are still walking. Know there are others. The first step to solving any problem is admitting you have one. I admit that I am sometimes scared to say I have a mental illness. Now I’m ready to remedy it.