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For years, I heard, “it’s all in your head,” and “mind over matter,” or even worse, “just get over it.” While there is a grain of truth to that, I am sick of “all in your head” being used as a derogatory term for a real, valid health condition. It is time to break the stigma on mental health issues.
According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 1 in 5 adults will experience mental illness in any given year. One in 25 adults will experience a mental illness issue that prevents them from normal activity.
With stats like this, why isn’t mental health the hot topic? While it is gaining notice, mental issues are still stigmatized. We’re afraid that people will think we’re unstable, unable to do our jobs, or want to hurt people.
I can assure you, while I do have days that I cannot function, I can keep a job and be a civil human being. I am horrified by hurting animals or other people. I want to be loved, I want to work, but sometimes I just want to be by myself. This can complicate things with my husband. He does not suffer from mental illness and has no idea what it’s like, other than seeing it from the outside. The best way I could describe it to him was that someone close to you died. You can’t bear to get up in the morning, you’re lethargic and sad, sometimes angry. Nothing really matters to you. This seemed to help him get the gist. There is obviously more complexity to it than that, but that was the easiest picture I could paint to him.
There are many misconceptions associated with mental health, including age. People tend to think of teenagers and young adults as having the most severe mental health issues. While I was an angry teen, I was also an upset child too. For as long as I can remember I felt like I didn’t fit in, like I was less than, sad and angry. It probably started in first grade, if I had to pinpoint an exact timeframe.
Older adults also suffer from depression, especially if they are facing mortality through friends and family passing away or battling their own health issues. Elderly can end up feeling isolated and paranoid, as they are unable to keep doing regular activities of daily life.
Another misconception with mental health issues is that we all must have been abused by our parents. I was never abused by my parents. Sure, I got swatted on the bottom when I deserved it, but I had to REALLY deserve it. Do I have issues with my parents? Yes, but I was never abused. (This might be a totally different conversation.) I have always felt alienated from everyone, like I didn’t fit in and wasn’t worthy to fit in. I believe part of this is from the media and how girls and women are constantly beaten down with how we are supposed to look and act, but that is definitely another conversation.
Remember, mental illness plagues one in five adults. Every fifth person you pass on the street is probably dealing with something similar to what you’re dealing with. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others, you never know what demons they’re battling. You are never alone, don’t let your illness alienate you. Reach out. I promise you that after you get over the initial fear, you will feel so much better admitting it out loud, that you need help.
Help is just around the corner. Reach out to a friend. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, see a professional. Don’t think you can afford it? There are many therapists that work based on what you can pay. There is also online therapy where you pay per week to have full-blown sessions or just text chat here and there as needed. There are also students, like me, who are always willing to listen. I am finishing up my Bachelor’s in Family Life Education and am going to move on to a Master’s in Counseling. I am more than happy to lend an ear. E-mail me with Help in the subject line, and I will see it more quickly.
You are never alone.
1. https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers (2018)