We Need To Stop Normalizing Mental Illness
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Health and Wellness

We Need To Stop Normalizing Mental Illness

Because it's actually not okay to be not okay.

We Need To Stop Normalizing Mental Illness
Robert Chang Chien

In the past two years, mental health awareness has become a huge talking point among different social media sites. Tumblr in particular serves as a vehicle for expressing ones feelings and creating a supportive, safe space. Articles upon articles are now being shared across Facebook, and they all seem to repeat the same mantra: “it’s okay not to be okay.”

Mental health awareness is important. That’s a fact. Too many times, people of all ages, shapes, and sizes deal with issues much bigger and more complex than those who deal with normal, every day life, and too many times they are put on the back burner and left untreated and unheard. The onslaught of attention towards these issues in the media and on the internet is helping to shed a lot of light on these problems, in the hopes to encourage those who are suffering that they shouldn’t be afraid to get the help that they need.

It’s a great idea, in theory. And don’t get me wrong, a lot of the material online about these subjects is extremely touching, encouraging, and incredibly, incredibly helpful. But it seems now that the surge of mental health awareness is almost more of a trend than a movement. Articles now are telling people that anxiety is normal. That depression is normal, and it’s okay. That mental illness is “just another problem.” That the brooding, “in your feelings” way of life is common, and that it’s okay.

No, it’s not okay.

Normalizing these feelings, taking every day challenges and issues and slapping the words “anxiety” and “depression” on them and calling it a day is not okay. For one, it’s not fair to those who are, in fact, clinically mentally ill. Two, it’s also destroying the self-image of those who aren’t actually mentally ill, but think that they are just because they read some shared Facebook article talking about stress and anxiety and finals week and related to it because yeah, it is a normal thing to be stressed about doing well on college finals. That doesn’t mean you have an anxiety disorder. That doesn’t mean you are depressed. That doesn’t mean you are mentally ill. That means you are a normal person. You are a college student. There is a huge difference between being diagnosed with an actual disorder and reading an article or a Tumblr post and letting it get in your head. What that does is take things that (for the most part) are unfortunate, yet common, every day life issues, draw in readers who may be going through something similar, and amplify those feelings inside to the point where those readers then think that there is something wrong with them, or that their issues are the end of the world. They believe that they're ill, that they're flawed, and that they're never going to get over whatever it is they're dealing with. There’s a difference between being anxious and having an anxiety disorder. There’s a difference between crying and a panic attack. There’s a difference between feeling sad sometimes and having depression. High school and college-aged kinds in particular are undergoing physical and mental changes as they grow and come into adulthood. It’s stressful, there are a lot of unknowns, heartbreaks, struggles with self-identity, money, school, and the list goes on. This is the age where everything is changing, and you’re going to feel things that you’ve never felt before. But it’s important to understand the difference between realizing you have a very real problem and realizing that what you’re dealing with in life is normal and valid and you’re going to get through it.

If you’re feeling abnormal and have been for awhile, you shouldn’t second guess yourself and not get help. If you’re feeling confused about things you’ve been thinking, haven’t been yourself lately, talk to a doctor or a therapist. That’s what they’re there for, and they certainly can do their best to help you sort it out and are the only ones who can diagnose mental health issues. Self-diagnosing “because the internet” or because it seems like everyone’s dealing with anxiety and depression is a big, big no-no. Claiming that you deal with “all of these problems” online to cry for attention and seem relevant is honestly an insult to those who suffer every day. Use your voice to spread positivity instead. Lift up those who are struggling, and share kind words and hopefulness instead of the normalization of mental disorders. Encourage self-help and self-love, and those who need it will hopefully be inspired. Suffering is not romantic or glamorous, and tragedy is not beautiful, no matter what Tumblr says. Get help if you need help. There’s no shame in it. Everyone deserves happiness in life, and you shouldn’t be defined by mental illness, whether you actually have a disorder or not.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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