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.