(trigger warnings: brief mentions of suicide)
Wednesday, October 10th is World Mental Health Day. World Mental Health Day aims to raise awareness about conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, or any other health concern classified as a mental illness.
Unfortunately, there is still a stigma that surrounds those who live with mental health issues, and many times those affected either don’t know how to get help or feel like they can’t. Mental health treatment is expensive and often inaccessible, and events like World Mental Health Day helps shine a light on the issues that exist in mental healthcare.
At Ginger & Champagne, we know first-hand what it’s like to be affected by mental illness. Here’s our take on World Mental Health Day:
- What does World Mental Health Day (WMHD) mean to you?Megan: It’s super important. Mental health is not something that just gets to be swept under the rug. More people suffer from some sort of mental health issue and without the conversation starting, at least half will go undiagnosed and untreated. It can lead to bigger problems and we need to break the stigma.
Rebecca: It’s a great way to bring people together who share a set of experiences. People who feel like there is something *~wrong**~ with them or their headspace can hear from other people going through similar circumstances and know they aren’t alone.
- Why do we need something like WMHD?Megan: Like I said, the stigma surrounding mental health needs to disappear. It’s unfair that I or anyone else who deals with a mental health issue has to feel scared to talk about what’s going on because people don’t want to hear about it. Talking about your problems often changes someone’s perception of you and that’s not okay. We need something like World Mental Health Day to open the conversation and create a better dialogue.
Rebecca: World Mental Health Day is important to me because it gets a conversation started. There are a lot of ways our society/government/healthcare professionals mistreat those living with it, from not jacking up medication prices to simply not believing people who say they’re having a hard time. But the sad fact is that more people than ever are being diagnosed with mental illness, and it’s time to make discussing anxiety and depression as mainstream as it is to talk about getting a cold or having allergies.
- When did you know that you had a problem with your mental health? Did you immediately tell anyone?Megan: I was 13 when I first developed my anxiety issues. I couldn’t stop thinking in “what if” and it was debilitating. It took me a full year before I told my parents because their generation, as well as generations before them, didn’t discuss their problems and believed that that was something you just didn’t discuss. I was worried about telling anyone else because as I said, I was worried that it would change someone else’s perception of me. I told maybe two friends and a teacher and that was it. It took probably another ten years for me to even be open about it in the way that I am now.
Rebecca: I had my first suicidal thoughts in fifth grade (for those outside of the U.S., that’s around 10-11 years old). I finally told my parents in eleventh grade (around age 17). They were understanding and immediately got me help. I was diagnosed with clinical depression by my doctor and I have taken Zoloft ever since.
- Why do you think there’s such a stigma surrounding mental health?Megan: I think that it has a lot to do with societal norms. For most of the 20th century, there was enough turmoil happening in terms of war and financial crises in America that people didn’t want to talk about the affect it was having on them or at the very least didn’t even have a name for it, such as PTSD in soldiers. This made it easy for older generations to avoid discussing it and thinking that, “Just suck it up” was going to work. I think it also has something to do with the fact that you can’t necessarily see it, you know? You can look perfectly fine while having a war raging inside of your head. If you can’t see it from the outside, it can apparently be a lie for attention or whatever else others believe. However, it’s very real and that needs to be acknowledged.
Rebecca: My diagnosis met some confusion and skepticism because I had no *reason* to be depressed. I have a healthy, happy relationship with my family. I have a great group of friends. I did well in school and had plenty of hobbies and things I enjoyed doing. In my case, my mental illness is genetic—no different than randomly being assigned hazel eyes and red hair. I think a lot of the stigma comes from ignorance and that stigma could be erased by getting better mental health education in schools.
- What’s the worst thing someone has ever said to you in regards to your mental health?Megan: Oh, man. There are some gems that make it clear that the person doesn’t really understand nor do they really care to understand what you’re going through. “Just don’t think about it!” “Well, can’t you just stop?” “Think about something else!” “It’s totally fine. Why are you worrying so much?” I can go on, but that’s already enough. It misses the point entirely. If I could stop, I obviously would. If it was as easy as “just thinking about something else” then I would be thinking about anything else. When you’re in the thick of it, no matter what you try to do to pull yourself out of it is ten times harder than any other time.
Rebecca: “Choose joy.” “Just choose to be happy.” “Choose positivity.” “Wake up and choose to make today a great day.” Yeah, okay. Let’s tell someone with cancer they should just to “choose” to get better. It sounds so ridiculous when you take the things people say about mental illnesses and apply it to physical illnesses.
- What do you want to see moving forward in terms of mental health?Megan: I would really love for their to be more understanding between those who suffer and those who don’t. It’s easy for someone not dealing with it to say “get over it” when they don’t understand how incredibly difficult “getting over it” actually is. It’s like scaling an Everest in your brain. It’s an uphill battle that you have to work at defeating. If they had a better understanding of what it was really like and we were able to convey those feelings without fear, there would be less eye rolling and more helping to overcome the problem in the moment.
Rebecca: Everything Megan said! And we need to make mental healthcare more affordable and accessible, especially to marginalized communities such as low-income communities, people of color, and queer individuals.
- What would you say to anyone about mental health?Megan: I would say that just because I have bouts of crippling anxiety, like I do right now, doesn’t mean that it defines who I am. Yes, I’ve been so worn down by my anxiety that I’m physically exhausted and can’t leave my bed for periods of time, but does that mean that I’m not smart? No. Does it mean that I don’t like to have fun? No. Does it mean that I don’t enjoy my life and want to live it? No. Are some things harder? Sure. Does it mean that I’m not always working to find coping mechanisms? No. I’m constantly trying to figure out ways to stop the deluge before it drowns me and how to deal with it in a healthy way. Mental health doesn’t negate who you are outside of it. It’s part of you, but not the whole part. People need to see beyond the stigma.
Rebecca: Like many physical illnesses, mental illness may not be curable, but it can be managed. You can live a happy, fulfilling life full of love and purpose while battling whatever is going on inside your head. Your mental health is only one facet of your beautiful existence, not your entire identity. The world is better with you here.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741
- National Institute of Mental Health