Every year when I reach the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, I try to reflect. I reflect on mental health in the state of my community, my city and my country, and I wonder if anything has happened this month that could lead to substantial change. This year, I have to say I’m a little discouraged. I know I’m usually a little more positive about mental health awareness, but after this month it seems like we have so much of it backwards. That’s why, to close out this month, I want to share why talking about mental health – the right way – is more important now than ever.
There’s something that I’ve seen more over the past few years that I’ve tried to not engage with. It’s mostly because I’m not sure how to even unpack it all, but I can’t put it off anymore. I am sick and tired of the way mental health and mental illness is weaponized by others. I know this conversation is more complicated and nuanced, but I needed to get this off my chest.
And even though this is a massive topic to unpack, it starts by acknowledging something many people ignore: experiencing mental illness is difficult. For many, it feels impossible. But mental illness does not excuse people from their actions, and it is not a catch-all explainer for why someone is the way they are.
This is a central point surrounding mental health that I’ve learned this month. Despite our conversations around mental health, despite pushing for person-first language and shifting the narrative around mental health and mental illness, it’s clear that many people have the wrong idea about mental health and mental illness. So, what can we do?
The work must continue. People must keep sharing their experiences, and we need to keep jamming mental health into any conversation surrounding health and wellness. We can’t let myths or misconceptions about mental health go unchallenged, and we need to push people who talk about a “mental health problem” by asking more questions and getting to the heart of what they mean.
There’s a lot of work to do, but I won’t pretend this month hasn’t been a little discouraging for me. But it’s also made me apparent that so many more people need to heal before we can build something better, and part of that is creating room for difficult conversations and space to sit with our feelings and emotions. We can build a better world, but we can’t do it without acknowledging what’s in front of us. I hope you get what you need this week, friends, and that you rest where you need to fight another day. Peace and love.
What is something new that you learned about mental health and wellness during Mental Health Awareness Month? I want to hear from you! Let me know in the comments below.