During Mental Health Awareness Month, there is a lot of attention focused on knowing what mental health challenges look like. It makes sense – mental illness and mental health disorders have become much more prevalent in the past few decades and the pandemic has only amplified that, so awareness is extremely important. But there are so many things to be aware of when it comes to mental health that not everyone might know. That’s why today, I want to reflect on how we talk about mental health society and how that impacts our health and wellness.
Before I share my own thoughts, I want you to stop and think for a moment (if you have the time) to reflect on this question: how do we, as a society, talk about mental health? Are we respectful in the way we talk about mental health, or those who face mental health challenges? How do you hear those around you talk about people who experience mental illness? These are the questions we need to ask if we’re ever going to seriously have this conversation.
I’m not sure if you can tell from my tone in writing this, but I’m sharing it because I think there is a LOT of improvement that needs to be done with how we talk about mental health. I’m also going to be honest here; I’m sure I’m a little more sensitive to some of what I hear/read, and I am working on trying to remembering that not everyone ingests things in the same way I do.
That being said, it feels like a lot of people don’t quite get it when they’re talking about mental health. Mental health and mental illness are nuanced topics that can be very individualized; you can’t talk about it once with someone, or watch one documentary, and say that’s it, I’m all set and be on your way. It is an ever-changing, ongoing journey, and the more people understand that, the better conversations we can have.
Mental Health Awareness Month is a good time to talk about mental health, but it’s also a good time to reset and think about how we’re doing it. So this month if you have some time, try to be conscious about the way people around you talk about mental health – the words they use, the connotations or assumptions they make, the myths about mental illness that may be reinforced – and see what you notice. There are a lot more ways that we can change the conversation around mental health than just this, but it’s a good place to start.