By and large, writing about mental health isn’t a “fun” activity. A lot of the experiences I write about are challenges that I or other people have faced in the past. Most of the research I do is to signify to others that mental illness is a concern for people of all ages and demographics, and having honest discussions about that will help shrink the stigma and help people get help when they need it. Since I experience depression on a weekly basis, I understand how my attitude toward mental health and wellness can be a little pessimistic, so I’d like to turn that around today. Depending on the context, mental health can absolutely be a positive term – and here’s how we can do that.
Reflecting on this topic reminds of me of an older post I wrote about the difference between mental health and mental illness. In that post I focused more on the definitions of each word, but I didn’t focus on the positive and negative connotations surrounding the term ‘mental health.’
We’re so used to hearing mental health in a negative context that for some, hearing the phrase ‘mental health’ is synonymous with hearing ‘mental illness.’ For many, there’s no difference between the two, and that misunderstanding leads to a larger stigma surrounding mental health.
But to me, good mental health means that you’re experiencing a wide range of emotions and feelings, and you’re able to navigate those emotions and feelings in a healthy manner. That doesn’t mean you don’t have bad days (everyone does!), but your long-term ability to handle those challenges still lets you live the life you want.
I might sound like a broken record at this point, but I don’t care. Mental health is important for every single person, and it’s something we need to keep in mind when we talk about taking care of ourselves. Shrinking the stigma surrounding mental health shouldn’t be left up to those who experience mental illness or mental health challenges – mental health affects us all.
Talking about mental health in optimistic and positive ways is one aspect of changing the larger narrative about mental health. By welcoming others into the conversation, we’re exposing more people to the fact that mental health is for everyone, and that it has its good and bad sides, just like any other aspect of our lives. Shrinking the stigma and changing the narrative are two of the most important ways we can change how people view mental health, and it starts with the way we talk to others about it.