By Catherine Ward
Mental health is being discussed more than ever before. In fact, many of the top political debates in our country stem back to it, such as gun control and health care. In addition, resources for mental health are readily available. Hotlines are heavily marketed and mental health help apps, such as Talkspace or Calm, are increasing daily. Discussions about mental health are also prominent on social media outlets in which people across the world as well as celebrities are campaigning for it to be normalized. So, why is the stigma persisting?
Part of the problem lies within the fact that mental health, for the most part, is only discussed in reference to tragedies. The Parkland shooting, the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, the overdose of Mac Miller. All of these current tragedies created important dialogue around mental health, but this all came too little too late. The negative association that mental health has makes it that much harder for people who are suffering to seek help.
We need to discuss mental health without being prompted to. There should not be a stigma around mental health in any form, whether it be depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or addiction. According to a Doctor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, 1 in 25 Americans are sociopaths, which is approximately 4% of the population. 16% of Americans classify as narcissists and over 18% have anxiety disorders. With just these three branches of mental health, this already refers to approximately 38% of the population who are suffering with some form of mental health issue. People need help, and this is more of a reason why we need to change this stigma.
Someone you know personally is most likely affected by a mental illness. It could be a close friend, an acquaintance, a professor, a mentor; it could be anyone. Mental illnesses do not discriminate. More importantly, we live in a society where celebrities and political figures are constantly in the public eye, and many of them are most likely affected to some degree by mental health. They need to all be using their platforms to create change around the reputation of this prevalent issue so that the people we know who are affected can seek the proper help.
I am sure someone comes to mind for everyone: influencers, musicians, actors, politicians, friends, siblings, bosses. Is Jake Paul really a sociopath? Is Kanye West having a psychotic break? What happened to Britney Spears in 2007? Why did Logic write his song, 1-800-237-8255, about suicide? Mental health is being discussed more than ever before, but we need to use these discussions to encourage others to utilize the resources available rather than reproducing the negative stigma surrounding it.
We cannot continue to wait until it is too late. It should not take tragic events to prompt the use of mental resources. We should not have to be reminded to “reach out” to friends and family who might be suffering. It is important to talk about why we are not reaching out sooner and why we are not encouraging getting help early on. We need to start being more conscious of others who are being affected and aware of what we can do to ease their suffering.
Although you cannot force someone to get help, you can try and encourage them. If someone is injured and stuck in bed, we make accommodations and bring things to them. When someone is depressed and stuck in bed, we tell them to cheer up and to get happy. There should not be this disconnect. We need to stop saying, “if only we knew they were suffering,” and start getting educated about what signs to expect from people that might be suffering.
Everyone will be impacted to some degree by mental health in their lifetimes. With this in mind, why are we talking about mental health so much yet doing so little to help? Why do we only share hotline numbers after someone commits suicide? Why is mental health still associated with negativity? We must all get on the same page and begin changing the stigma around mental health.