In the United States, there has been a growing movement among young people centered around mental health. And that's a good thing! It's important to spread awareness and to erase the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. However, this has also given rise to many who, without qualifications, give out advice such as "talk to your friends" or "love yourself, unapologetically!" Well-intentioned? Yes. Sufficient to actually help people suffering from mental health issues? Not really.
Yes, talk to your friends. But make sure to keep in mind that your friends are not professionals. Use them as ears that will listen to you, as reminders that you are loved, and as people to give you support. However, do not expect them to know the answers or to provide adequate therapeutic responses. In that manner, friends are a good resource.
I have more of a problem with the well-intentioned BS that is the statement "you just need to love yourself". Think about it. What does that even mean? You think I haven't tried that? Or wanted to do that?
See, it implies that you're choosing to have low self-esteem. It implies that you've decided against loving yourself, rather than it being the result of other conditions that need actual treatment by a licensed therapist. It's ignorant of the cause of the problem. Although being told to love yourself might make you feel better in the short term, in the long run, it's about as effective as putting a band-aid on a stab wound.
The most egregious example of this that I've seen is the phrase "love yourself or no one else will". It seems to imply that if you don't love yourself, that you're not worthy of love--which is a dangerously irresponsible message to spread. Everyone deserves to be loved, except for maybe Ted Cruz...I'm kidding, even the Zodiac Killer deserves to be loved.
If a friend comes to you saying that they're struggling, that they're depressed, or that they need help, don't just throw out some pseudo-psychiatry that you saw on Twitter or "RuPaul's Drag Race". Listen. Give support. Show your love. And, importantly, encourage him or her to seek professional help.
This brings me to my next point. We need to make therapy more accessible. This means more awareness, but also reform aimed at making therapy more affordable. Paired with the accompanying medications for certain mental health issues, these things can cost quite a bit, especially without good, affordable health insurance. Too many are suffering from mental health issues because of a lack of access to the tools necessary for healing.
Mental health is a complex thing. Your self-esteem cannot permanently rise because someone hit you with a simple "love yourself". The responsibility falls upon friends to not just listen, support, and comfort, but to encourage the use of professional help as well.
Let's keep this all in mind while we continue to spread awareness. Let's think about what we're actually saying. Let's ditch the pseudo-psychiatry in favor of, you know, actual psychiatry.