Everyone has their own unique way of seeing the world. While many of us see it in a very similar way, there are still personality traits and life experiences that make our point of view unique. Some people refer to these as ‘lenses’ through which we see the world. The lenses I see the world through have changed through the years, and recently I’ve seen them change for the better. One lens that I continue to see the world through is a mental health lens. This lens impacts how I see the world in a major way, and shapes the choices I have and the decisions I make. Now I want to share what that means for me, and how you can incorporate it into your life too!
After living with depression and anxiety for almost a decade, it’s second nature for me to view everything through a mental health lens. But what does that mean? Looking at the world through a ‘mental health lens’ means that when I interact with real-world situations, one of the first things that comes to my brain is how mental health factors into that situation. You might think that feels forced, but if you learn enough about mental health you’ll realize that it’s present in every aspect of life. Mental health matters in the workplace. It matters in school. It matters in sports, politics, government, hobbies, medicine…the list goes on.
And this isn’t just in our hobbies and activities, either. Mental health and wellness is present in interpersonal relationships, romantic relationships, friendships, family interactions. We fail to see these connections because not everything is “about” mental health. But that’s not what it means to see something through a lens. Just because it’s not the most important aspect of a topic doesn’t mean it should be ignored – and that’s how we treat it now.
Most people assume that the only time to talk about mental health is when someone is expressly talking about it, and that’s just not true. Someone doesn’t need to share a personal testimony – often one filled with sadness and pain – for us to talk about mental health in sports, music or pop culture. A reactionary approach to mental health is how we got to where we are, and it’s why all the talk about shrinking the stigma persists. With all of the success that mental health advocates have found, it’s still rare for people to talk about mental health unless they’re negatively affected by it. Encouraging people to see things through a mental health lens could change that.
So, how do you start seeing the world through a mental health lens? You start asking questions. When you read about events in the news, ask yourself how mental health could play a role in what happened. If your loved ones say that they don’t feel well, ask them if they mean physically or mentally. If you see a celebrity or public figure going through difficulties, ask yourself if they’re mentally in a good place – mental health disorders can exacerbate situations, and calling people ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ instead of having a valid discussion about mental health is the common reaction our society has about any non-traditional behavior. Once you recognize the patterns for the way the world talks about mental health, you can start calling them out. Seeing the world through a mental health lens means we can pick each each other up to create a healthier community for ourselves and others, and it’s past time for us to start doing so.