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It’s World Mental Health Day, and that provides a great opportunity to be able to talk about mental health openly, and reflect on what the current world of mental health advocacy looks like. I still find myself in awe of how far humanity has come regarding openness about mental health; 50 years ago talking about mental illness was taboo, and even 10 years ago it was a touchy topic. Now, I am not here to say that we have succeeded in making mental health a topic that is completely transformed from what it once was. Stigma still plagues much of the conversation around mental health, and we have a long way to go, but for the sake of positivity I wanted to spend today reflecting on how I have seen the topic become more normalized.
When I was young, I honestly do not remember much talk about mental health. Sure, I was taught about emotions, but openly discussing one’s struggles emotionally and mentally were rare. The attitude toward mental health was much more dismissive, with many simply thinking that emotions were temporary feelings that came and went based on situation. Mental illness or chronic struggle was, in my experience, not taken seriously.
But as I got older, science began to truly discover the nature of mental health, and people began to realize the importance of talking about it. I was in middle school when I had my first real lesson on mental health in school, and it was life changing. For so long I thought that I was one of the only people struggling, as nobody was ever open about it. At that point, I learned that I wasn’t alone, and many other people have difficulties with their mental health too. From then on the conversation became more and more common. Suddenly I felt like I could confide in friends, and it wasn’t such a scary thing to say.
Now, mental health is a bigger conversation than it ever has been. A lot of people I know will openly discuss going to therapy (something I was always incredibly ashamed of), and posters from the high school guidance department are scattered across the school, urging kids to get help if needed and reminding us of the importance of taking care of your mental health. In health classes, its education is equal to that of physical health education. The topic of mental health is no longer something that people feel has to be kept secret like it was; humanity is much more accepting of those who struggle with mental illness. Like I said, there are still a ton of problems with how mental health is viewed. I don’t know if there will ever be a time when mental health stigma is completely eradicated or people are completely comfortable with discussing it, but I think we as a community have made an incredible amount of progress in advocating for mental health discussion and support.
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