Forests and Hotlines Will Not Cure Mental Illness
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In light of the recent passing of both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain (may they rest in peace), there has been a massive flood throughout social media in regards to mental health awareness. While mental health is an extremely sensitive but necessary topic to discuss, the stigma surrounding mental illness seems unchanged.

One aspect of the negative stigma that needs to be called out, is the overwhelming amount of people who believe mental illness is something you can choose to cure, or something that is easily cured through a few miniscule activities or hobbies. This is a dangerous ideology for people to have and/or inflict on other people who struggle with mental illness.

Stop telling people they can be cured by taking walks

While some people find nature very therapeutic and relaxing, it is very important to remember that a common symptom of many mental illnesses is the loss of enjoyment to participate in beloved hobbies and/or everyday activities, as well as feeling the need to stay in bed due to fatigue, dissociation, etc. Many people who suffer from mental illness have a difficult time trying to find the motivation to complete everyday tasks, let alone get up and go for walks which may end up being more tiring than helpful.

This idea that nature can cure depression or anxiety is not only a myth, but it also adds to the negativity surrounding medications which are necessary for some individuals to produce chemicals they need (such as serotonin), in order to keep their mental health at a balanced level. Not to mention that "doing what you love" is not adequate advice to give, when one of the most common symptoms of mental illness have to do with not being able to enjoy one's favorite hobbies or activities.

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People who struggle with mental illness/illnesses are already trying as hard as they can. To suggest trivial activities as a solution may come off as being dismissive of their mental health, which would hurt them more than it would help.

While it's great that nature can be a source of peace for some people, a stroll through the woods isn't a reality for most people who struggle with mental illness, and that's okay.

Posting the hotline can only do so much

While the sentiment is appreciated, posting the suicide hotline to all of your social media accounts is about as helpful as telling people to go for walks when dealing with their mental health. Don't get me wrong, the suicide hotline has been a very useful tool in regards to providing aid to those who reach out to them for help, and it's definitely a resource that needs to stick around. However, many people who struggle with mental illness have a hard time reaching out to close friends/relatives, and are likely to have an even harder time reaching out to a complete stranger.

Reaching out for help can instill feelings of fear, burden, an lack of understanding within people who are struggling with their mental health.

If you're worried that a friend or family member of yours is struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts, REACH OUT TO THEM.

Check on them, make sure they know that you're there for them when they need you, offer to help them out with chores they've been struggling to finish or cooking if they picked up poor eating patterns. Encourage them to explore different professional options if they feel they're getting worse. Offer to take them to their therapy sessions. Do your best to let them know that they can confide in you and trust you with their mental health. It won't cure them of their mental illness, but it can give them a little bit of a push in the right direction towards getting help.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that if someone opens up to you about their mental illness and you begin to worry that they may become a danger to themselves or others, or they are showing harmful actions/behaviors, get help immediately.

If you wait for your struggling loved ones to reach out to you, you may end up being too late.

For more information on mental health and what you can do to help your loved ones, feel free to visit these links as well:

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