Lately my mental health has been poor. I’ve been over-stressed because I had 4 assignments due and a midterm all last week, both of my clubs are struggling due to campus-wide apathy, and I haven’t yet recovered from the stress caused by the conference in February. All of this came together in my being unable to deal for the last little while. As such, I thought it would be a good time to talk about mental health.
In an event I attended today, we talked about how different things are in different communities, namely the queer community in my city, compared to mainstream society. I don’t know how things work in other places, but queer communities are generally meant to be safe spaces. As such, a lot of really personal information gets shared that you wouldn’t hear about in mainstream society. For example, mental health isn’t really discussed in mainstream society, or, if it is, it’s generally discussed in a “we must end the stigma” kind of way. People don’t generally sit down and talk about their mental health. But mental health is a much bigger deal in queer communities. Where in straight society (ie. groups with mostly straight cis people, or classroom settings, etc.) it is difficult to determine if anybody else has a mental illness, in queer communities you can almost assume that 1/4 to 1/2 the people there have some sort of mental illness. In fact, LGBT people are more likely to have a mental illness than straight people: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201124355.htm, http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-statistics/. In my community, it is common for people to talk about their mental health very openly. Everything from who has the same psychiatrist to what medication people are on to who had the latest break down gets talked about. It’s not a taboo subject, and everybody feels safe because we have created a safe space. To a lot of us, this is normal. We find it more odd that other people don’t talk about mental health so openly. Especially since hiding mental health issues is very damaging.
I wish mainstream society would adopt this openness with talking about mental health. I wish people stopped seeing mental illness as a taboo and started seeing it as a part of life. That’s what it is: something that some of us have to deal with while simultaneously leading ordinary lives. Mental illness isn’t scary until it’s not dealt with, and it isn’t allowed to be dealt with in a society that tries to hide it. But it’s just another part of life when it is dealt with. When it’s dealt with, it can be lived with.
So talk about mental health. Make it something that can be talked about. Make it something that’s okay for your loved ones to talk about, especially if you suspect they might be dealing with an undiagnosed illness. Create the safe space required for everybody to feel okay about who they are, and to seek the help they may need. And don’t be afraid to share your own stories, or your own issues. Even if your family and friends don’t understand, someone will. And talking about it helps those who don’t suffer from mental illness to understand what you’re going through. It can be tough to come out and share your story, but it’s worth it.
April 10th, 2015 at 1:27 pm
I agree. There aren’t many safe spaces in the straight community to talk about mental health. I just read a book entitled “Luna” about a transgender teenager and the writer really trivialized the issue of mental health in the book which in light of what you shared, is a problem.
March 21st, 2015 at 12:00 am
Thank you for sharing. I am an antagonist. I am an angry writter. Mental health is defined as what? Who makes that deinition? Labels are for cans not human beings. I am in great shape. However, I have been victimized by a system that is oppressive. You know, we are all unique. Our stories are sacred. Do not allow others to determine your fate. Thank God that I am here and doing quite welll.. God bless you.
March 20th, 2015 at 9:47 pm
My primary mental health issue is one that I’m not even “supposed” to (stereotypically, and recently backed by a scientific study– very arguably, flawed) to have. It’s “supposed” to be the province of younger, straight females, and when I was in treatment, I did quite a bit of banging my head with a primary therapist who would relate my own issues to the person she referred to as her “gay husband” (yep). So, oddly, I sort of do have a taboo mental illness (to be clear: I agree with your post. I’m just commenting as an exception, not the rule).
I hope you and those you know receive as much help as possible at this time, since, in so many cases, earlier intervention can make so much difference.
March 19th, 2015 at 3:23 am
“If its dealt with it can be lived with”…wise words. I have a son who has been diagnosed with a mild form of schizophrenia…nothing mild about it, as I sit and watch from the sideline, some of the torment he endures. If it weren’t for faith hope and love I would have not been able to stand.
Sorry to hear of your mental illness. Will keep you in my prayers too.
March 18th, 2015 at 11:56 am
You do realise that a lot of the so-called mental issues would not be around if it weren’t for a messed up society in which some people have agreed to a certain standard. You should read The Psychopath Test. Furthermore, talking about mental problems, don’t you find it a little odd that non-queer people do not talk about their mental issues? Don’t you think it is about time pharmaceutical industries came up with a pill for that? It’s nice reading your blog, keep on blogging in a free world – The False Prophet
March 18th, 2015 at 11:15 am
My ex-husband was diagnosed after we married with bi-polar disorder and was then put into a mental hospital after a severe breakdown. He was a loving, brilliant person but I could not continue living with him. Since then I’ve come to realize how common it is and how little treatment is valued in our society. They have just closed down a mental health facility and addiction treatment center in our community and are opening up a big prison in the next town over. This is the direction that Stephan Harper is taking Canada and it has to be reversed.
March 18th, 2015 at 6:49 pm
Unfortunately mental health care has been getting worse in Canada over the last 30 years, but Harper is certainly helping to make things worse. And what the heck do we need more prisons for?
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March 19th, 2015 at 11:56 am
my thoughts exactly
March 18th, 2015 at 9:28 am
I have anxiety issues (which my doc says can be related to OCD issues which I find quite plausible) and my husband is bipolar (happily he has the his right cocktail of drugs Zyprexa and wellbutrin!)
There is no more reason to be ashamed about mental health issues than there is to be ashamed about diabetes. We try to be as open as possible about our brain chemistry problems.
March 18th, 2015 at 7:54 am
Hey there, love this post and the message you convey. The medical community (healthcare professionals in general, really) are more prone to mental illness, just like the LGBT community. However, ironically, it’s a pretty taboo topic. That’s precisely why I started blogging….semi anonymously, but at least it’s something. No one should feel alone going through mental illness. Hope you can recover from this recent dip in your mental health, sending you strength.
March 18th, 2015 at 6:40 pm
Yeah, I know about mental illness in, at least some, areas of health care. Particularly people who deal with mental health. Withteeth’s step-father is a psych nurse and has bi-polar.
March 18th, 2015 at 6:55 am
Thank you for sharing. I struggle with depression, anxiety and alcoholism (sober 1 year as of March 7) and I started blogging as a way to talk about my experiences, not only with my treatment, but in my work, relationships and how mental health is dealt with in general.
I can’t say I’m surprised that the LGBT community in particular struggles with mental health at a higher rate than the cis/straight community. After all, even with recent progress, society has stigmatized that community, creating the closet, shaming people and telling them they were flawed. It’s a transgression that while not exclusive to or encompassing all religious communities, has been fueled by faith based movements and scriptural interpretation. You do an excellent job on this blog pointing out that these arguments often rest on a foundation of sand, and I believe that exposing religious bullying and hypocrisy is tied to creating a healthier world where we can talk openly about mental health.
I’ve been told by people in my own family that my depression, anxiety and alcoholism have been a result of not having a “personal relationship with Christ.” It’s hard enough to seek help when you have people who are supportive and try to be understanding, but it becomes much more difficult when the people you care about can’t or won’t acknowledge the reality of these problems, i.e., as health issues that can be treated. Having these kinds of conversations is crucial to increasing understanding and tearing down stigma.
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March 18th, 2015 at 9:30 am
that attitude from some theists makes me furious from their willful ignorance and callousness. This is where belief in the imaginary does do real harm.
March 18th, 2015 at 6:36 pm
Congratulations on being sober one year. I can understand what you’re saying about family: my parents are still convinced I’m lying about my anxiety even though I was diagnosed over a decade ago.
March 18th, 2015 at 6:43 am
Just to say that I’m sorry to hear that you’ve not been so well. Make sure you take good care of yourself.
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March 18th, 2015 at 5:59 am
I’ve never held back from talking about my ADD, since it forms an integral part of who I am and my personality.
It took me years to come to terms with the fact that I have (not severe) depression: I bought the notion I was lazy and should try harder. Now that I am seeing depression for what it is, I am keen to talk about it in many forums: work, friends, family. Depression isn’t part of ME but it does change ME. And my journey through life, with depression, is worth sharing.
I find most ppl are curious, supportive and have their own stories to share. But sometimes… Sometimes, I should have checked just how safe my environment really was. It’s like getting a car door slammed on your fingers.
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March 18th, 2015 at 5:09 am
We probably disagree on many, many things, but on this one I absolutely stand with you. Mental illness should be no more taboo than any medical problem we might have; very often it involves body chemistry anyway. Keep talking about this.
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March 18th, 2015 at 5:01 am
Reblogged this on HumansinShadow.wordpress.com.
March 18th, 2015 at 3:52 am
I have an anxiety disorder. I’m pretty sure my 4 year old daughter has it too. But, she’s a little young to make determinations. My mother aunt and grandmother suffer from it. But, they aren’t really strategizing. I am a devout and committed meditator. I think what you’re doing is so commendable.
March 17th, 2015 at 11:57 pm
I wonder how much impact the percentage of the population has on the frequency of discussion.
In a “population” where 1 or 2 in 4 has the problem, there is the combination of lots of opportunity to talk about it, plus with that degree of probability, a wide interest. In a population where the percentage is much less, there is less interest from those who are not afflicted, and less opportunity for those who are afflicted to discuss. Plus, of course, the heightened sense of difference, which tends to suppress discussion.
So the question becomes, how do we encourage free and non-judgmental discussion in the general population?
March 17th, 2015 at 11:34 pm
It can be tough indeed. Thanks for sharing.