“Just be a man and suck it up.”
“Women are too emotional and overact.”
“Well, if you have a bad attitude…”
“Well, have you even tried not feeling depressed?”
For far too long, we have hand waved away the seriousness of mental health. Can you imagine if we did the same for physical health? Who among us would be seriously deride someone limping along with a broken leg as “soft,” or tell someone recovering from a stroke or cancer that they’re “faking it?”
The fact that we do so for people struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, and any number of other issues related to mental health speaks to the ignorance about these conditions, which pervades our society. That is undeniably depressing. If we are ever going to move beyond that and give mental health the attention it truly deserves, we need to start treating mental health as seriously as we do physical health, and that begins by educating others, increasing exposure, and setting up programs to deal with it.
For example, in the United Kingdom, the National Health Service has begun developing more programs to continue to spread the word about mental health. These include everything from workplace-friendly information to full-blown summits by professionals and leaders. A greater emphasis is being placed on treating mental health like physical health – namely, as conditions which can, in certain circumstances, be improved with the right routine, diet, exercise, and other controllable factors.
Of course, this will not eliminate mental illness.
Any positive information and treatments to assist in combating it, though, are crucial.
Celebrities are also doing their part to spread awareness of the issue. Years ago, Stephen Fry created a wonderful documentary on The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, and did an interview with The Big Think on his own battles with bipolar disorder. More recently, members of the Royal Family have gotten involved on the issue, hosting the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit.
Mental health matters, and it’s time we all gave it the proper perspective and attention it deserves.