Mental health is an extremely hot topic among young people right now. In the past, mental health conditions were swept under the rug. Talking about emotions, feelings, and hardships was considered weak and frowned upon. These beliefs have largely bled over into modern ways if thinking. Although millennials are changing the way mental health is discussed among the masses, there are still areas that could evolve and serve people more effectively.
As millennials enter the workforce, we’re finding that the way businesses and corporations treat mental health could be improved. This article points out that “approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.” Now, I didn’t dive into the research too much. I’m not sure if these numbers are including people who have diagnosed mental illnesses or those who just have symptoms of mental illness. Either way, that is an incredibly high percentage of the population.
So, I personally do not struggle with mental illness. But I think everyone has periods when they feel consistently anxious, sad, overwhelmed, or depressed even if they do not have a diagnosed disorder. That’s why this topic is so important. These feelings are universal to some degree and yet, no one talks about it. Except maybe on Twitter. I actually have a hard time reading about other people’s mental health struggles on social media. Part of that is because I’m not used to reading about mental health really at all besides textbooks. And part of it is wondering if people are being genuine or just wanting attention.
What is mental health?
Mental Health is “a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.” This definition doesn’t need much further explanation, but I think having a clear definition helps the conversation. Your mental health, in my opinion, is just as important as your physical health. Mental and emotional ailments can lead to physical problems if left untreated and ignored. The mind and body cannot be separated, they work together to create a whole person. Since that’s the case, neglecting one will negatively affect the other.
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Why is mental health a controversial topic?
People get really heated about the topic of mental health. There are many reasons for that but I’m just going to mention two of the big points of controversy.
Can’t physically see the ailment.
It takes a lot of love, trust, and understanding to believe someone when they say they can’t do something because of a mental illness. Unfortunately, the common response to someone saying they have a mental health problem is, “Well, you just need to be happier,” or “You’re being dramatic.” Sometimes that is the case (because the words “depressed” and “anxious” seem to have taken on a much lighter meaning these days), but real mental health problems are different. They can be extremely debilitating.
If you have a broken foot, you can’t walk on it. No one questions that. You need rest and someone to help you clean the house and get the mail. There’s an X-ray proving that the bone in your leg looks different than it normally does. When you say, “Man, my leg really hurts,” everyone understands. Mental illness is not that clear cut. If you say, “I really can’t do this assignment today, I am extremely anxious,” that doesn’t fly, does it? Even as I’m tying that I’m secretly thinking, “Well, you can just push through it.”
Perceived as weak or feminine.
Regular readers of this blog know that I am a Gerontology student, which means that I study aging. In my studies I’ve learned a lot about how mental health conditions impact aging. Did you know that depression is the number one mental health problem among older adults? This stems from the fact that we’re taught from a young age that our emotions and feelings make us weak. This social norm is perpetuated by both men and women.
If a young boy starts crying, an adult will tell him that “big boys don’t cry!” This idea flows into our adult lives and many people don’t learn to express their emotions and feelings in a healthy way. I think this effects men in really obvious ways, especially when it comes to relationships. I posted an article a few weeks ago about gender differences in communication and there were so many people that didn’t realize that some of their relationship problems stem from simple gender differences.
Why is mental health important to talk about?
For the reasons listed above, I would like to bring more awareness to how millennials are handling mental health in a time when it is thought of as weak, feminine, complicated, and “just a trend.” For the next several weeks, I’m going to share stories, experiences, and thoughts from our peers about how mental health effects their careers, families, school work, etc. If you would like to participate and share your own stories, please feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
You have a voice, you are important, and you can make a difference. Let’s all strive to listen a little harder to what others are telling us and strive to change for the better.