Changing the Dialogue of Mental Health

Yesterday was Mental Health Day and as much as I love that Mental Health is finally starting to get the attention it needs and deserves I fear we are taking it in the wrong direction.

“It is okay to not be okay.” has become this phrase that gets thrown around on pictures and everything else. I have said it. If you have any passion for mental health at all, you have probably said it. I understand it is a phrase meant to be positive, but it is not the message we need to send.

It is not okay.

It is not okay to be suicidal or to have suicidal thoughts.

It is not okay to be depressed.

It is not okay to go about your life enslaved to your own mind and emotions.

We are doing our fellow brothers and sisters a huge disservice when we allow them to believe that it is okay to stay at the place of being not okay because there is diagnosis attached. Suicide rates are not going to drop by acknowledgement alone. We need to instead start educating children, students, and adults what healthy emotions actually look like and what to do when they are not. We need to be well versed in treatment options, coping mechanisms, and where to point others when they do not know where to go. We need to make counseling as important as mammogram checks and we need to stop telling people that their destiny is to stay depressed. We need to start pressing hope and sharing what is working or not working for us, more than we are pressing the struggle. There is more and we need to start acting like it.

I started taking medication for anxiety and depression at the age of 12. Without getting help at that time I would not be here today, but I still always carried this shame and identity that was attached to those pills. I associated taking medication with being crazy and therefore associated myself as being crazy. Three years ago I learned how to cope with my symptoms using diet, exercise, and by seeing a counselor regularly. Then life happened. I had a pregnancy plagued with Hyperemesis gravidarum , then a newborn to take care of, my grandmother got sick, and later passed. 2 of those 3 years were spent taking care of everyone but myself. I became stuck in the idea that “It is okay to not be okay.” I am going through a lot. This happens. It is normal to be sad right now. And all of that is true except I was more than just not okay and that is why changing what we say and educating ourselves is so important. It is not just enough to accept that what is happening is happening. “It’s okay not to be okay.” needs to change into It’s okay to reach out. It is okay to get help. Here is the name of my psychiatrist. Here is the name of my counselor. I don’t think you are crazy. Call me when you need a friend. I have been there.

Everyone is different and therefore everyone’s treatment is different, but we all need community, resources, and friends to rally beside us. If you can control your symptoms with diet and exercise, great! If you are like me and could control it for a little while but now you need to start seeing your doctor again, do it! You are worth it. It is not okay to not be okay. You deserve to live freely and part of that is getting the help you need.

If you or someone you love is considering suicide please call 1-800-273-8255.

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