Having a mental issue is not an embarrassing illness. We don’t need to pretend like everything is normal, because it’s not. We don’t need to act like everything is okay, because it’s not. Our conversations in the workplace, with our friends and family, and on social media seem to have shifted to be more real, and perhaps more open and vulnerable. Why do we have to pretend everything is okay when it is not? Who told you to do so? Media? Or do you ever see someone being honest about it and yet all they received was negative judgment towards them?
Why do people start to realize their actions and words have an impact on others after someone took their own life? Is it really that hard to even tell a stranger 'you look good today' , 'there is someone loving you' or a simple 'fighting' / 'cheer up? Stigma is one of the most significant factors that prevent people with mental health disorders from seeking help. Some people are so afraid of seeking help because of judgment from others. If there are more encouraging individuals who encourage them that they are okay, will we save more people's life?
Oftentimes people joke about being depressed; even people suffering from severe mental illness joke about depression, perhaps as a way of crying for help. Currently, when someone claims to be depressed, some people assume they are clinically depressed; others may think they are just experiencing a bout of sadness. The inability to actually tell if someone who uses the word depression is clinically depressed creates referral dilemmas for professionals, family members, and peers. Moreover, it further erases the distinction between normal emotions and severe mental illness and makes it harder for decision-makers to appropriately allocate resources. Ultimately, the situation is worsening as children increasingly are exposed to the misuse of mental health words to an extent that their working definitions for depression, anxiety, etc. are heavily flawed and misleading.
Mental disorders in the media (e.g., movies, television, songs, news reports) often are inaccurately portrayed, overdramatized, and even romanticized. And as popular presentations increase, so does superficial familiarity and a sense that severe mental illness is commonplace. All this has been exacerbated by social media sites like Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. Some sites offer users a degree of anonymity that encourages a sense of relative safety in opening up about mental health concerns. Many see these sites as sources for support, attention, and a sense of belonging. The easy and enticing access has resulted in a bandwagon effect with increasing numbers of posts about "mental illness". This is further erasing the line distinguishing normal emotion from severe mental illness. Social media does encourage some individuals to open up and to learn that others also are struggling. I think, however, it is likely that some individuals experiencing normal mood swings or sadness post their concerns as worries about being mentally ill, and these posts contribute to an online culture where mental illness appears increasingly pervasive and melancholy. Social media often becomes an echo chamber that reinforces ideas of melancholy and depression to a point where it can seem weird not to be experiencing such problems. Overall, the various media play a role not only in blurring the line between normal emotion and mental illness, but also make some people feel worse by creating situations where negativity begets negativity.
But what does normalizing mental health concerns look like in practice? It can definitely mean that we talk about our own mental health or difficult emotions really openly and honestly. Maybe you curate your social media posts less and instead make them more realistic, showing when you’re stressed, tired, angry, sad, or any other number of emotions. But you might not be ready to be that open about how you’re doing, and that’s completely okay. (Of course, it is important to try to talk with someone if you’re having a hard time, even a friend, just to make sure you aren’t keeping it all inside.) It's perfectly normal to talk to friends, family, and coworkers about seeing a doctor if you have the flu or a broken leg.
We should all start to respect that and know that it is super hard for the people who are suffering it. It is even harder for their loved ones. Let's all normalize talking about mental health! Always remember that you are being loved~