Let's Discuss Mental Health

By: Chelsey Spano

Mental health initiatives have been a topic of discussion in many different forums.  Ending the stigma is not a novel idea. And yet we still find it difficult to accept mental health problems as a “normal” thing. When we look at the statistics, in both Canada and the U.S. approximately 1 in 5 people will experience a mental health problem or illness in any given year. So why is it that there is still such a stigma surrounding it, and more importantly what can we do to change it?

First off, we need to talk about these conditions. Education and awareness are key to accepting mental health conditions. Once we understand them, we can better recognize the symptoms and signs in ourselves and our loved ones. Genetics, biology and environmental factors all play a role in mental health. Because there is an associated stigma, many people avoid discussing such problems which causes them to often go undiagnosed. This is where the real problem lies. What we truly need to normalize is the conversation around mental illness.  This is the way towards removing the negative connotation behind it.

photo: Imani Clovis

photo: Imani Clovis

Mental health is just another form of health. Like our physical health. It should be viewed in the same regard. That being said, if someone chooses to keep it private then that is their right. But in order to win this battle against it, we must give it the same forum for discussion like we do for any other physical ailment. And it is in my experience, that once someone starts the conversation regarding the struggles they have been facing, the more others begin to share. Once someone makes a safe space to discuss these problems openly, it allows others to internally recognize their struggle and sometimes feel comfortable enough to share. In either case it propagates the normality of mental health issues, which is truly what needs to happen in order to better cope with it.

What I am suggesting in this article is that we collectively normalize mental illness as a health condition. I know that seems like an obvious statement and sure we can all agree on that. But let’s truly decide together to end the discrimination against those who have openly discussed it, or those who choose to keep it private. We all have our own health issues or concerns. We accept that anything in our physical health is private information and what we choose to share and discuss is up to the individual. Mental health should be no different. And therein lies another battle because this is often where lose the war. But by ending the stigma, we will give those suffering in silence a safe world to seek help and support without shame or embarrassment. I do support the idea of openly discussing these conditions. But I respect the individual who chooses not to as well.

Mainly we need to be aware of these problems and recognize the cues in those we care about or ourselves. We must create a community and an environment of acceptance so that we can ask for the help when in need. By throwing away our ignorance and judgement and educating ourselves in this light we can help others by offering true understanding and real support. Although we might not understand the complexity of every condition, we can appreciate that it is an issue of health, much like we do with the rest of the body. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not real. Let’s create this movement together.