Lately, there has been a lot of talk in the news about issues surrounding mental health. This comes up almost every time there is a major tragedy in our society carried about by an individual who we consider one of our own. We do not want to face the fact that our way of doing things could produce such tragedies, and so we attribute the entire ordeal to the perpetrator's mental health, or lack thereof. Attributing these disasters to mental health while ignoring all other facets of the problem seems like a copout to me, but I do think it's good that mental health is being talked about.
Because the reality is that we do have a mental health problem in our country. So many people experience some kind of mental illness at any given time, and yet most of them go untreated. Treatment is unavailable or unaffordable, and besides that, there is a stigma attached to mental illness that causes people to hide their struggles. So instead of seeking help and getting better, people simply hide the problem until it gets so bad that it comes out in destructive ways.
I recently saw a video from John Oliver's show Last Week Tonight that uses research, humor, and logic to talk about the mental heal crisis in a constructive way. The video captures a lot of what I feel about mental health, so I thought I would share it with you.
The saddest thing about mental illness is that help is available, but there are just so many things that get in the way of people seeking it. And the problem starts with us. We've created a stigma surrounding mental illness, and it's literally costing people their lives. We do it in ways that are subtle for us, but they certainly aren't subtle for the people dealing with mental health issues. We throw around words like "crazy" without thinking about their implications. When someone is struggling with sadness or loneliness, we tell them they should "just get over it" or that if they have enough faith, their struggles will go away. These are destructive habits that create an atmosphere of judgment and prejudice, and it must stop.
Think about it this way: If your friend told you they needed to go to the doctor because they had a fever, how would you react? You'd probably encourage them to seek treatment, right? You might even offer to drive them to the clinic. But when someone seeks help for mental illness, we want to distance ourselves from it. Not only do we not want to be involved, but we make the person suffering feel like seeking help is a sign of weakness or would lead to being judged. Mental illness is just as real and just as dangerous (often more so) as physical illness. And just like physical illnesses, mental illnesses can lead to severe injury and even death if left untreated.
I understand that it's hard. Mental illness is a concept that is difficult for many of us to grasp, and that makes us want to stay away from it. And because mental illness is not easy to diagnose and observe, we struggle to see it even when it's right in front us. But with a little bit of education and a little bit of sympathy, we can all become advocates for those with mental illness. And not only advocates, but companions. We can come alongside people suffering from these illnesses, and we can tell them, "I'm here for you. I'm not leaving your side until we see you through this." It will be hard, and it will take time, but I believe that if we open our hearts and minds, we can see the mental health crisis in our nation and in our world end. Mental health is crucial to living a fulfilling life, and everyone deserves that chance. So let's work together to fight mental illness and give everyone the chance that they deserve.