Mental Health Awareness Month + Normalizing Mental Health
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and throughout the month I will be posting different self-care tips and blogs regarding mental health. I'd like to start off the month by discussing how we've normalized mental health, as a society, and why that's so important.
In recent years, mental health and more so, discussing mental health has become an increasingly normal and acceptable thing to do. I remember times growing up when it was taboo to discuss one's mental health with anyone outside of family and close friends. It was one of those things that everyone knew existed but you just didn't really talk about. Now we see it discussed at length in public social media posts, on our favorite shows and even on live podcasts, radio shows and television. In a lot of ways, talking about mental health has normalized mental health.
The more openly and frequently we talk about mental health, the less taboo or foreign it becomes. Why? Because it becomes relatable to more people as more people learn and gain a better understanding of what the topic entails. Fifteen years ago, many people, myself included, still used the term "head shrinking" when referring to going to a psychologist. Nowadays, people just say "my therapist" or "I'm going to see a psychologist". By taking away any negative connotation from the concept, we've made it less taboo and in turn, more normalized.
Why should we care whether mental health is normalized versus taboo? The more taboo something is, the more people feel shame about it and the fact of the matter is, most people experience mental health issues on either a first hand or second hand basis. Second hand being that someone close to them, a loved one, has a mental health issue. With that in mind, imagine everyone you know with a mental health condition feeling some sort of shame around it. That could add to their stress and anxiety, so normalizing mental health then becomes beneficial in dealing with mental health and also helping others to accept needing help.
Personally, I still feel some shame around my mental health issues. I grew up in a time where it wasn't necessarily ok to openly discuss them. In certain circumstances it's still taboo to discuss my depression and anxiety, but as mental health has become more normalized, my shame has slowly lessened and in turn, I have a much easier time dealing with my depression and anxiety.
Sociologists say it can take up to three generations to eradicate a societal belief (like racism). One could reasonably draw the conclusion that it could take up to three generations to eradicate this shame, but the important thing is we are on our way. I hope that by the time I have children and they are teenagers, they feel comfortable discussing their mental and emotional health without any shame.