Just saying the words out loud make many uncomfortable. We avoid the discussion much like we avoid talking about our bowel problems (because poop is weird, didn’t you know?)
We avoid it until something blows up in our faces and we can’t simply sidestep it. Suicide. Overdose. School shooting. Eating disorder. Psych ward. Phrases that make our skin crawl.
These are the words that come to mind when someone says “mental health issues.” But just like cancer, lung disease, and stroke – they’re the extremes. The worst-case scenarios. And oftentimes, they’re completely preventable.
Mental health, like physical health and fitness, lives on a spectrum. Where you’re at on that spectrum changes by the day, sometimes by the minute. You’ll have really high highs and plunging lows. You’ll experience stress so dense your lungs refuse to breathe. You’ll fall in love and then find yourself broken. You’ll make mistakes that leave you reeling. You’ll face moments so dark just the thought of them scares you.
These are what I’ve deemed the “common colds” of mental health.
No, they’re not cancer, but dammit they suck. It’s like they linger around just long enough to ruin an otherwise perfect week only to slowly fade out, leaving you wondering if it was all in your head.
Here’s the thing about common colds: It’s OK to actively treat them and try to heal. It’s OK to rest because they’re leaving you extra tired and drained. It’s OK to complain and tell your friends you feel shitty. It’s OK to say, “Can you grab me some medicine from the store while you’re out?”
None of that should make you feel weak or weird. Everybody catches a cold sometimes! And on top of that, everybody needs a little help from their friends when they’re feeling under the weather.
Let’s make mental health a priority. Let’s take the “weird” away. Let’s talk. Not sure where to start? Here are 5 ways to talk about mental health:
- Start with a text. Communication has become increasingly digital. If you’re not comfy bringing something up face-to-face, shoot your friend a quick text. An example might be, “Hey, I’ve been meaning to tell you some things that have been on my mind. Have time to talk tonight?” It opens the line of communication and gives them a heads up.
- Check-up chats. The quickest way to take the stigma away from mental health talk is to just start talking. Check in with your friends regularly and see how they’re doing. This means more than just asking, “How are you?” Some example questions might be:
- I know you’ve been stressed out from work lately, how’s that going?
- What’s your family been up to? I haven’t heard you mention them much lately.
- You’ve seemed extra quiet, anything up?
- Watch your words. Avoid sayings like “crazy” or “psycho.” I’ll be the first to admit these terms slip out regularly, but they’re not your only options. The use of these words in a negative light roots a stigma deep in our brains and subconsciously changes the way we think of someone, much like the word “retard.”
- Talk. Talk. Talk. If you feel comfortable, talking about your own mental health can be incredibly empowering, and can also motivate others to do so.
- Be real. Social media has completely changed how we view others and ourselves. It’s a collection of snapshots from our most perfect moments – and few from our worst. Positivity is an incredible attribute to possess, but remember, it’s OK not to be OK. And when you show the world your life in it’s most raw form, you just might help someone more than a filtered photo of what you ate for dinner.
Talking about our mental health is wildly important. Taking care of your mental health is too – more on that later!
This week make it your mission to start a conversation and normalize mental health. Oh, and if you need someone to talk to, I’m your girl.