Odyssey recognizes that mental well-being is a huge part of physical well-being. Our mission this month is to bring awareness and normalcy to conversations about mental health from within our community. Let’s recognize the common symptoms and encourage the needed help without judgment or prejudice. Life is a tough journey, we are here for you and want to hear from you.
The first article I wrote for the Odyssey was about one of my experiences with anxiety. It wasn’t written as a cry for help, but rather in the hope that someone else who hasn’t opened up about their mental health issues might feel like there was someone they could relate to. Now, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to share more about why it is of the utmost importance that we pay attention to mental health awareness.
I can say from personal experience that it’s hard to admit that you have mental health issues, especially because of the stigma surrounding it. Emotional issues and illnesses are more often than not “treated” by being told to “suck it up” or “deal with it”, while physical health issues are treated with the utmost seriousness. And unlike an antibiotic that can cure the stomach flu or fever, there is no reliable cure for psychological problems.
I have often wondered why there is such a gap between the recognition of physical health and mental health problems. Personally, I believe this can be largely attributed to the way the latter is discussed in the media. We throw and twist the irrational actions of the mentally ill psychopaths who star in the dramas and horror movies we watch. We blame the genocides of criminals in the news on their mental illness. As a society, we have created in our minds this idea of some Joker-esque, dazzling, drug overdose monster that is “mentally ill.”
We are also taught to judge how much our mental health problems matter based on where we come from. I am guilty of downplaying my own mental health problems, even denying they exist because of how comfortable my life is. I’ve internalized the belief that someone who claims to have mental health issues while living a life of minimal tangible struggles is really just petty. This is completely incorrect. But to be quite honest, even as I type that, I don’t quite believe it. I try to teach myself every day that my problems are real and should be treated as such, but it’s been etched in my brain for far too long that they aren’t. And so I’m not just writing this article to reach out to others, I’m also doing it to help myself.
I am in no way proud of the fact that I have mental health issues. However, I believe that I must recognize and acknowledge them as an important first step in realizing that I must reach out and seek help. All of us shouldn’t be afraid to tackle our mental health issues. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in the United States alone, approximately 61.5 million adults undergo a variety of mental illnesses. This is about 1 in 4 adults. Given the prevalence of mental health problems here in America, it should make sense that they are discussed more or not at all. Instead, we often hide these problems behind fragmented facades. Not everyone with a mental health problem seems to be the ‘type of person with a mental health problem’, and the statistics prove just that.
By writing this article, I don’t expect to solve the stigma surrounding mental health issues. But mental health awareness is a topic that isn’t talked about enough, nor sufficiently recognized as a topic worth discussing. As the saying goes, the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that it exists. So I hope this piece encourages people to do their part in removing the stigma. Mental health problems are real, and it’s time we recognized that.