World Mental Health Day is October 10. Normally, I look forward to sharing my story in hopes of showing friends and family that they aren’t alone if they are living with mental illness. But, this year I felt differently. I’m so thankful for the conversation that it starts, that it allows people an opportunity to share their experience, that it gives young people a language for their struggle. Growing up, I knew what I felt was different, but didn’t know it was an illness or something I could seek help for.
But, sometimes days like this feel like a bandaid on a much bigger issue. It’s so important to bring visibility to these often invisible illness, but what happens today when the hashtag stops trending? Will the conversations continue with young people, with athletes, with people of color? Will friends and family have patience for the hundredth time you’ve cancelled plans because you need to take care of your mental health? Will lawmakers take note and start making mental health services more accessible to people without insurance or an extra $20-300 (many times more) they can spend per week on copays and medication? Will folks in correctional facilities gain access to treatment? Will we be able to talk about mental health at work without fear of losing our jobs? Will it start being treated with equal weight as physical illnesses?
Even on days like World Mental Health Day, when important conversations are being had, it can feel like a glorification. So many of us (me included) share our experiences with a beautifully curated picture, and it just perpetuates the media’s image of mental health being something posh and romantic. I don’t have to tell you that it’s not. The pain goes past today, the strain on relationships and wallets goes past today, the lack of action in government goes past today.
I don’t think we should stop posting pictures and talking about our struggles - that’s how we get closer to ending the stigma. There’s so much value in that! And I realize that most people aren’t posting with the intention of romanticizing their illness, but I worry about the long-term impact. For every post we make, we should be thinking of ways we can take concrete, lasting action. Two of my favorite ways to do this are through writing my representatives (always with resistbot) and volunteering with the Crisis Text Line.
Stay strong, friends. This is one of many fights we can’t give up on. Keep talking about mental health if you are in a place to do so, work toward removing the stigma, and for godssake keep demanding action.