Mental health in the United States is a prevalent issue. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year, approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S, experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities, and 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.”
If you look around your work place, your class room, or a busy street you are probably looking right at someone who is struggling but you likely have no clue. I live with anxiety and depression and have since at least middle school. Most people I grew up with never even noticed. If you apply the statistics above to a classroom or work place setting at least one person probably struggled to show up, or maybe didn’t show up because they felt debilitated by their illness; if you noticed and thought to ask most people would respond with a simple I wasn’t feeling well.
Often times common mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression can present themselves differently from person to person. Of course, it’s also hard to notice when, more often than not, we’re seeing a perfect picture portrayed through social media. We all want the world to see the nicest sides of ourselves, our best angles, and our greatest moments. Society set these standards high and therefore started the creation of the stigma around mental health. We need end this stigma.
We need to start being more open about mental health issues. When someone says they feel anxious or depressed we need ask how we can help rather than telling them not to say those things. We need to take these claims seriously. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–14 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24. From the ages of 10-24 most people are still pursuing an education. Here at University of Wisconsin Stevens Point we are able to meet with mental health professionals, but only 20 times and you need to plan weeks ahead of time to be seen. There is also currently one group session that meets weekly. The group only contains eight to ten students, so it fills quickly. In a crisis, these services are difficult to utilize due to these constraints.
“Bell Let’s Talk” is a Canadian organization dedicated to ending the stigma surrounding mental health. Their biggest event takes place on January 31st across different social media platforms. The organization simply asks users to use the hashtag “Bell Let’s Talk” in order to start conversations about mental health and the resources that are available to fight mental illnesses. This year there were 138,383,995 interactions. 138, 383, 995 times that stories were shared, or support was given and for every interaction money was donated to a Canadian mental health organization. Though this initiative wasn’t taken by an American organization the conversation was held via social media around the world. People let their guard down and stood together in their struggles. Yes, social media can be a part of the issue at times but when we aren’t hiding behind it, showing only the greatest hits of our lives, it can be a useful tool to engage people in the conversation about mental health. From personal experience I know it can be difficult to open up but sometimes seeing others doing so can be the push that is necessary for someone else to talk about their own mental health.
If we start to make it okay to talk about mental health everyday rather than one day a year we could save lives. I urge you to open up this conversation in your work place, your school, or your community. Stop shutting people down when they open up about their struggles with mental health. Start asking, with sincerity, how someone is doing if something seems off. Stop ignoring the ugly details of your own and other peoples lives. We as a society need to start embracing the not so beautiful sides of our lives in order to change them.