Hidden behind closed doors. Whispered between families. Shoved behind a curtain of secrecy. But there’s no need for it to be a secret.
Over 20 percent of teenagers aged 13-18 have or will have some form of mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
It’s not a rarity. It’s not abnormal. But still, those who suffer from a mental illness have been called names or blamed for it. Or told to keep it hush hush to avoid the curiosity of prying eyes.
But the truth is that our generation can’t afford to handle this like the generations before us. It’s not the 1950s. It’s not time to deny what we face. It’s time to help.
But many who suffer from some form of mental illness font ask for it for fear of being judged and treated like a social pariah. So, it’s up to us to start a conversation. It’s up to overcome the fear and stigma that the generations before us carefully built to preserve the ideal image of normality.
The implication that mental illness is inherently abnormal is ignorant. It’s arguably one of the most prominent issues facing our society right now. So, it’s time for us to do something.
And it goes beyond just offering support and information on therapy and other treatment options. We need to change our mindset. We need to create a culture that’s accepting of what has previously been hard to swallow.
And it starts with us.
We need to open up a conversation and stop treating mental illness like it’s something that needs to be whispered about. We need to encourage the type of language that refrains from using mental illnesses as adjectives to describe our mood, and that creates a feeling of safety for people to openly seek help if they need it.
We need to educate ourselves. We need to offer therapy and treatment more openly, and with options for those seeking it.
But it’s not just our social culture that needs to change. It’s our focus. Rather than working constantly and feeling pressure to live up to the expectations of everyone around us, we need to leave time for self-reflection.
It’s fine to take a break, normal even. But teenagers and young adults in the United States feel pressured to do anything but that, and we shouldn’t have to be forced to foster unhealthy habits.
The demand from school should no longer outweigh your biological need for rest. The looming deadlines and social pressures flashed in front of us every day can no longer be deemed more important than recuperation.
Because it’s not just the people around us that we need to help, it’s ourselves.
It’s our responsibility to remove the stigma. Because when millions who suffer from mental illness are too afraid to seek help, we need to reevaluate. Is it really more important that we maintain an illusion of perfection instead of helping our family, friends, and neighbors? It’s not complicated.