Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid of Discussing Your Mental Health

by Rebecca Potts

Mental health can be a sensitive topic, and although the stigma has decreased in recent years, there is still reluctance to speak openly about mental health conditions. There are so many reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid of discussing your mental health, and since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re highlighting some of those reasons.

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Mental health conditions affect one in four people during their lifetime, which means that if you have not experienced at least one mental health problem, you likely know someone who has. We are all affected in some way by mental health conditions, so why are they so difficult to talk about? Many people fear judgment from family and friends, but before most people can open up, they’re already heavily judging themselves. Recently, there’s been a huge shift in the perception of mental health from judgmental to more supportive, so the self-judgment a person might feel is often not a good reflection of how their diagnosis will be received. The number of online communities, support groups, and resources for people living with a mental illness is constantly growing, and while we still have quite a long way to go, it’s made a huge difference in the public perception of mental health conditions.

But we didn’t get here just by sitting in the dark and waiting; we got here because a few brave people who opened up about their struggles turned into many brave people openly talking about their mental health without fear or reservation. And even though the stigma is still pervasive in society, asking for help and reaching out is rapidly becoming perceived as a courageous act rather than weakness. More and more, people living with mental health conditions are learning that it’s okay NOT to be okay. And even more, it’s okay to express that.

In addition to all of the above, we’re learning more and more about how treatable many disorders are. This means it’s become much easier to live with a mental health condition and thrive. In fact, there are plenty of people throughout history who have lived incredibly successful lives with some form of mental illness. The composer Ludwig van Beethoven lived with bipolar disorder and claimed that his most creative pieces were written during some of his worst times. Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression, often experienced suicidal thoughts, and claimed that he overcame his struggles through sheer will and determination. Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Demi Lovato, and Lady Gaga have been very open about their experience with post-partum depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD respectively. Mental health issues used to be viewed as a hindrance that meant success was nearly impossible. But the world has changed.

Young people, specifically millennials, are more willing to talk about mental health, more than any generation before them. In the age of social media, anxiety and depression have hit an all-time high, but the script is changing. Young people are exposed to mental health education at a younger age, are able to talk about their experiences more, and fight the stigma of mental illness.

In my personal experience with my own litany of mental health diagnoses (anxiety, depression, OCD, and panic disorder), sharing my story with friends, family, and even strangers was truly what began my healing process. I was initially very reluctant to come forward about my mental health conditions, but in 2015 I was given the opportunity to speak publicly about it and chose to open up. Once I did, it was like a weight lifted from my chest; my depression and anxiety weren’t cured, but I didn’t need to hide them or pretend I was okay when I wasn’t. I made the choice to surround myself with a community of people who understood and supported me, and through social media, support groups, and networking at events held by organizations like NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), I was able to have much more self-compassion, and learn about myself in the process. I also noticed how the people around me were also embracing their own mental health, and feeling stronger without being afraid of who they are.

Being different can feel a little scary, but the topic of mental health is becoming easier and easier to talk about. And when you decide, on your own time and when you feel ready, that it’s time to talk about what you’re going through, you’ll most likely realize that you’re not all that different and you aren’t alone.

For Mental Health Awareness month, stop being afraid of your mental health. You’ll thank yourself later.

Rebecca is a blogger and Academic Coordinator for a Career Coaching Academy. In her spare time, she likes to act, sing, and write whatever comes to mind. She's been a mental health advocate for years and has shared her story everywhere from California to Australia to help stop stigma. Her favorite thing to do is spend time with her fiance and two cats, Spyro and Crash.