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What's the deal with World Mental Health Day?

Today is World Mental Health Day, which the World Health Organization says is celebrated: “as an opportunity for people and communities to unite behind the theme ‘Mental health is a universal human right” to improve knowledge, raise awareness and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health as a universal human right.”

But, why should you care about mental health?

We’ve all the arguments that mental health is just as important as physical health (true) and that caring for your mental health will improve all the aspects of your life (true) and above all — focusing on mental health saves lives (very true).

According to me, you should care about mental health, as a concept, because no matter if it is for a small fraction of your life — or your entire existence — you will one day be impacted by a mental health condition. The way it is (or isn’t) normalized now will impact how you handle it when it happens.

A white paper produced by The Center for Health Communication (CHC) at the University of Texas at Austin found four main reasons why communicating positively and respectively about mental health is critical.

  1. We can reduce the stigma around mental health conditions

  2. We can teach people to properly recognize symptoms in themselves and others

  3. We can improve the rate of treatment-seeking amongst those with mental health issues

  4. Once people do seek treatment, we can improve the care they receive.

We can reduce the stigma around mental health conditions

I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) this year and it was a lot to digest at first, especially because all of the rhetoric I knew around BPD in mainstream media has negative and used words that made me think I was a monster. I was afraid to tell my friends and to ask for the space, tools, and support I needed because of it.

Eventually, I found resources that were positive that I could share with them when I did tell them, but it took me a while. Sure, nothing changed with the way that I was previously living — I continue to mask my BPD tendencies in my everyday life — but I now don’t feel like I have to all the time. I know that they understand me and that they will create a safe space for me.

Ending the stigma around mental health is truly about cultivating safe spaces for the mental health community to just ✨ exist ✨ as everyone else does.

We can teach people to properly recognize symptoms in themselves and others

I personally believe TikTok has done an amazing job at helping to normalize some of the symptoms of mental health conditions and help people to recognize them within themselves as well as their friends.

Not only that, it helps to start conversations in humerus and non-attacking ways which is important when it comes to the sensitivities of mental health.

We can improve the rate of treatment-seeking amongst those with mental health issues

According to a 2023 study done by a behavioral health care group (NextStep Solutions), 55% of adults with a mental illness have not received any treatment. Looking at further break down of those numbers, the common barriers were:

  • No affordable options, reported by 42% of respondents

  • Lack of awareness about where to go for services, according to 27% of respondents

  • No time to get treatment, cited by 19% of respondents

From my personal experience, before I got Kaiser, I felt so clueless on how to start the process and it wasn’t simple to just hop on a laptop and go to therapy like I can now. To be fair, I was on my fathers TriCare insure and mental health within the U.S. military — especially for dependents — is a conversation for another day.

We can improve the care they receive

If you haven’t caught on yet — the way we talk about mental health at all levels of society has an impact on how individuals are able to live.

  1. In the media of our day-to-day life (TV, movies, social media) we are able to reduce and eliminate the stigma around mental health.

  2. In the conversations with our family and friends we are able to recognize the behaviors and symptoms of conditions and have conversations that could lead to possible diagnosis.

  3. In the way we train our health professionals and our care professionals (even our office/ work professionals) to know about mental treatment and point us in the right direction.

  4. Lastly, in our own government and legislation, to ensure that the care that our health professionals (and even law enforcement) are providing is top tier and what we need.

Bottom line: You never know when you, or someone you care about, will be diagnosed with a mental health condition that will impact the way that they move throughout life. Having a support system of friends, family, doctors, and even society is critical to ensure you are thriving and not just getting by.

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