A lot of people face mental health challenges on a daily basis. That might sound like it’s a lot to deal with, but there’s something that’s easy to forget when we talk about mental health and the challenges that people can face – each person, and each challenge, is unique. There is a sense of community and togetherness that is important when it comes to the mental health discourse (think about ‘you are not alone’ and phrases in that vein), but it can be difficult to remember that even though we’re in this together, each person is on their own mental health journey. This means that our challenges will be faced in many different ways, which can get left out of how we talk about mental health.
I don’t talk to every single person I meet about my personal approach to mental health. I wish I could, but it’s not always easy to do. There are a few roadblocks that make it difficult to share experiences and resources and have a productive chat about mental health. While they don’t completely ruin an interaction, they shut down an aspect of the conversation that could lead to a better interaction.
One of the quickest ways to shut down a conversation about mental health is when someone says something along the lines of, “well that isn’t how I would’ve done it.” While that may be accurate, our tone and what we center the conversation around is extremely important when talking about mental health.
Mental health is rarely cut-and-dry, and when we’re talking with someone about their own mental health, their experience needs to be centered. This is important not only because it’s what that person deserves as a human, but also because it’s what is most effective to provide help and support for that person. But it’s easy to forget that nuance when a large community comes together – even though it’s one of the most important aspects of mental health.
A level of nuance has always existed surrounding mental health, but it hasn’t always been acknowledged. The idea that mental health is intersectional is still new to a lot of people, and the idea that each person’s mental health is unique to their experience also feels like a new concept that gets lost in the shuffle, but it’s one of the most important parts of all of this.
A conversation about mental health is impossible to have without understanding that every single person is on their own journey. That is what our community is based around – not that our experience is the same, but that we’re all on our own unique mental health journey. The more we name this and call attention to this aspect of mental health, the more we can build on this person-first approach to how we talk about mental health.