Shame and fear keep people from talking about mental health issues, but it’s important to talk to someone when you experience problems like depression or anxiety. The World Health Organization reports that “around 20 percent of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems.” The National Institute of Mental Health reports that there were 43.7 million U.S. adults with mental illness. Mental health disorders are a leading cause of disability, as well as important risk factors for other diseases. It helps to talk to someone when you feel there’s a problem and it helps to hear about how others have experienced and recovered from their mental health problems.
Why People are Afraid of Mental Illness
Thu-Huong Ha contemplates the ways we deal with and avoid mental health issues in her TED Talk “How Should We Talk About Mental Health?” There are still a lot of myths and misperceptions about mental health problems. There is stigma around mental illness associated with something being fundamentally wrong with a person with feelings of anger or depression. There are parallels drawn between mental health issues and violence and criminality. There is discrimination towards people with mental illness, evidenced by language and labels like “crazy,” “mental,” and “loonie.” Talking about mental health and hearing others talk about their experiences with mental illness has an effect on people, letting them they know they are not alone and that there are options for treatment and getting help.
When You Notice a Difference
It’s important to talk about it when you have problems like feelings of sadness, feeling overwhelmed, or feeling angry. When you notice a difference that affects your daily life, talk to someone you trust, such as a family member, faith leader, or health care provider. On MentalHealth.gov, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says building support systems, finding peer groups, participating in treatment decisions, and developing recovery plans are all productive ways to respond when you have a mental health problem. Celebrities like Cher and sports journalist John Saunders recognize that it’s important to talk about mental illness and encourage people to do so.
Why Talk About Mental Health
Mental health is just as important as physical health, maybe more so because it can affect physical health. Your mental state affects how you take care of yourself physically, and good mental health enables you to do all the things that are important in your life.
When you talk to someone about issues like feeling overwhelmed, gaining weight and losing interest in things you like, or anxiety that makes you scared and withdrawn or angry and confrontational, you gain perspective. You see options and solutions. You start to understand how things like nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress affect your mental health and that you need to pay attention to them to take care of yourself.
Reaching out by talking about mental health is healthy and helpful to yourself and others. It raises awareness and recognizes contributions of people with mental health issues. Temple Grandin, autism activist and Colorado State University professor of animal scientist, reminds us of the amazing people with autism and their contributions, including Einstein and Steve Jobs, and how a lot of creative people have struggled with mental health problems.