Updated: Jul 25, 2019
Unlike physical health issues – like a cold, sprained ankle, or bruise – mental health issues are often not visible. Because of this, and in addition to social and cultural stigmas, mental health can be a very taboo subject. Sometimes it's hard to know how to approach a conversation about mental health without being offensive or making someone else uncomfortable. Yet the benefits of these conversations can be significant, if posed correctly.
WHY SHOULD WE TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH?
1. Mental health issues are more common that you think. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine and Health center, 26% of Americans ages 18 and older – about 1 in 4 adults – suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. And, this excludes other mental struggles such as low self-esteem, and stress, that the majority of people face on a daily basis. Mental health issues exist in varying degrees among us all, and that is why these uncomfortable conversations are so important.
2. Talking about mental health can make you and others feel like you're not alone. Chances are, you’re not the only one who has ever felt anxious in an unfamiliar situation, or stressed when deadlines are coming up. Although it may feel that you’re the only one experiencing undesired emotions and thoughts, the majority of people also feels this way. By starting a conversation about it, you can gain and provide a greater sense of relief and happiness.
3. Talking about your own experience can educate others. There are over 200 classified forms mental illnesses, each from a unique cause and expressed by unique symptoms. By sharing our own struggles and mental health challenges, we can create a more cultured, sensitive, and educated environment and society.
4. Conversation is the first step to recovery. Recovery can only start with recognizing and admitting that you are in need of help. Without verbalizing your mental struggles, it is much more difficult for you and others to begin to help your recovery process. The journey may be long, but step one is always that conversation.
5. Conversation is a tool that puts the recovery journey in your hands. Unlike other tools, conversation allows you to choose what and when you discuss. Conversation allows for you to target some topics and avoid others as you desire, thereby controlling the direction and speed of your journey to recovery.
Conversation is just the first step of the process. It takes much more than a single one-on-one conversation to change the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness, so don’t expect much to change. However, opening yourself up for tough discussions like these will slowly change your own and others’ perspectives on mental health. And in the process, you can establish closer and deeper relationships with friends, family, and peers.