When someone breaks a leg, gets burned, or finds herself with a severe wound, we don’t hesitate to spring into action. These scenarios call for medical help, and we know that if we don’t make a move, the situations could get worse. We push through crowds and become superheroic advocates for those in pain.
When someone is reaching out for help because he or she feels out of sorts, however, we say to shrug it off and get over it. “It could be worse. You could be missing a leg.” What we don’t realize is that it definitely could get worse…if we don’t take the time to acknowledge that there is a need.
Mental health is one of the most important subjects we could discuss, yet we spend the majority of our time turning blind eyes to those who struggle with mental illness. It’s not like we can physically see an issue, so that person must be fine, right? She could just be faking. Why waste our attention on a drama queen?
This approach to mental illness is exactly why so many people continue to fight losing battles. With suicide at an all-time high, we should be asking more questions. I mean, is this news not a cause for concern? It should be. But I’ll be the first to admit that it is difficult to take people seriously when there are so many people out there making a game out of anxiety and depression.
Too many times, mental illness has become a joke, an excuse to get out of responsibilities or own up to faults. And as the saying goes, “One bad apple spoils the bunch.” Those who genuinely need help aren’t getting the aid and support they need because of the ones who want to fake their way through life on a mental crutch. And it has to stop.
Just as a side note: “Mental illness” may sound like a horrible phrase to some. It can make people feel as though something is majorly wrong with them. From this moment forward, we will refer to it as either a “chemical imbalance” or a fight for mental health.
Now, let’s backtrack a moment and define what a chemical imbalance is.
According to Healthline, “A chemical imbalance in the brain is said to occur when there’s either too much or too little of certain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, in the brain. Neurotransmitters are natural chemicals that help facilitate communication between your nerve cells.” These chemicals can be serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, etc.
It is difficult to show proof of the levels of the chemicals in one’s brain. We don’t wrap a bandage around our heads and tell our peers we are low on dopamine. It is an internal, out-of-sight obstacle that, a lot of the time, a person must face on his own. No one lives inside of his brain except for him. But that doesn’t mean we cannot be there to help him cope and overcome.
Some mental battles are caused by traumatic events and not just chemical imbalances. Memories and joys have been bruised for many people, abstract concepts that we cannot physically bind nor to which we can administer medicine. This is when good listening ears, professional or otherwise, are especially helpful.
One of the worst approaches to those fighting for mental health is saying things like “Betty Q. has more problems than you do. You should be thankful for where you are and what you have.” While you may have good intentions of showing your friend all the blessings in front of her, it’s not beneficial to invalidate her sufferings. In fact, that just makes her feel even more alone and misunderstood.
Plenty of people fighting to find peace know they have a lot to be grateful for, that they have people who love them and want to be there. But their brains don’t just magically generate what they require simply because they come to acknowledge these truths. They don’t feel more stable and in control just because you pat them on the back and say, “I’m here for you.” However, that’s a great start to letting them know they don’t have to go the road by themselves.
If you find yourself around someone who is working to find mental stability, remember that this person has a story and is on a journey just like you. Maybe you don’t look uncontrollable depression, anxiety, anger, or other similar challenges in the face every day. Maybe you cannot relate to the horrors from their past. But if you can remember that someone’s mental health is just as important and relevant as your physical health, you’re already helping more than you know.
Featured Image by Devin Avery