I don't remember ever talking about mental health in school. The closest thing to a mental illness that we discussed were eating disorders. I remember hearing the words 'depression' and 'anxiety' but I didn't realize for a very long time that they were diseases. I didn't know you could be diagnosed with such. I thought anxiety was just another way of saying stressed... that came with the holidays, with errands, with mortgage payments, that type of thing! I didn't know that someone could HAVE anxiety. I didn't know that someone could be sick of mind. And sick of mind simply by existing! And, to add to the ignorance, I didn't know that there was help to be had for such diseases. Mental illness has long been considered taboo, only ever talked about behind closed doors, and always viewed skeptically. It's like all of society has struggled to understand how having depression doesn't mean you're incapable of smiling. Even now, people are confused - and sometimes even hostile - when the subject of celebrity suicide comes up. Why is it so hard to understand that success doesn't mean mentally healthy? Wealth doesn't ensure happiness. Fame doesn't promise inner peace! For too long, people have avoided using certain words, avoided asking for help, avoided admitting trouble, and thought themselves crazy or weak but never said a word... all for the sake of saving face. Why? Because in general, those with mental illnesses have long been under informed, denied assistance, and negatively judged.
I learned the basics of the human body in high school and then learned way more during CMT training... but I didn't learn what I wanted to know about the connection between emotion, thought, and body. So, over the years, I've done a ton of research trying to figure out what's wrong with me, wondering how common mental illness is, and searching for solutions. A body can get broken - can get sick - that we all know. We take physical ailments in stride. When somebody says they have a cold, nobody blinks an eye. They're told to take some vitamin C, get a lot of sleep, and drink a lot of water... but when somebody says they're depressed, there is no immediate answer. There is no quick-fix and no waiting it out. There is no "here take this and you'll feel better instantly" type cure-all. What my research has told me is there are an astounding number of unanswered questions, a lot of illnesses not commonly known, and that help is not being given due to negligence, under funding, inaccessibility, and bias. Help for mental illnesses can require going to a doctor or psychologist, getting a prescription, getting another (or different, or multiple) prescription, changing an entire diet and exercise routine, kicking addictions, changing social circles, going to therapy, taking herbs, moving, changing jobs, getting acupuncture or massages, sleeping more, sleeping less, meditation, supplements, etc etc etc. It often requires years and years and years of trial and error. All just to feel "normal". Not even in order to feel good! Simply to just plain feel NORMAL. There is no 100% success rate, 'you're cured, all is well' answer to mental illness. There is a fight. a struggle. an endurance. every single day. so that our lives can be lived and - hopefully - enjoyed. But, instead of realizing this and being supportive by being honest about just how difficult managing mental health can be, the world has always turned just its back on those struggling. Finally we've started to open open up, to talk, to admit truths that have long been ignored. I think it's truly great that mental health is up for discussion, in the news, getting some funding, being further researched... But I urge you, talk to the youth as well. Talk to your younger siblings and your children, and encourage teachers to talk to students. Please, don't neglect to include the youth in the conversation. Because - if we want a future filled with healthy minds - we need to teach our children that there are many different ways to be sick and many different ways to get help. And none of them are shameful.