2015. The first time I went on a big kid roller coaster. It was one of those boat rocker rides, the ones that swing back and forth, and get more and more intense. So, I went on it with my little brother. I was having a blast, gleefully screaming with delight. It was only a couple of swings later did I realize my brother was also screaming, but not with delight. He was screaming his head off, because every time we went up, he flew at least a foot out of his seat. If I wasn't paying close attention, I wouldn’t have noticed and seen my brother’s suffering. I wouldn’t have known that he needed help.
Every moment, millions of people, in this nation alone, go unseen in their suffering.
Much can be said about this country’s views on health. But with all the good and bad, one important aspect goes relatively overlooked: mental health. In our society, a person’s physical wellbeing is the most looked after and scrutinized, leaving our mental state unattended.
When we were younger, we learned through trial and error. The cuts and bruises we had experienced. But we were also taught the stereotypes of what is healthy and what should be hidden. Exercise is essential for a healthy life. Don’t cry. It’s not a big deal. Or even worse, Boys shouldn’t cry... Children may express their emotions, but they have no way of controlling or understanding them if they are hearing these statements. So as they grow older, these statements are are conditioned in our minds, and an unhealthy mindset develops, in which a person locks their emotions away.
As a society, our general knowledge of mental health is constricted. There is also an unfair stigma surrounding mental health disorders. If someone says that they are depressed, people may assume they are overreacting or being lazy. Many people do not differentiate the actual illness from the person afflicted. However, if someone says they have a high fever, people would instead feel sorry for them and wish them the fastest recovery. Because it is not their fault.
2021. What a time to be alive . . . not! Just when it seems everything is finally looking up again . . . just kidding! Mask mandate! The world has yet to return to “normal.” Two years ago all of this would have sounded like a dystopia. But we don’t have to imagine how people would feel living through it. Think of the children, spending most of their time in front of screens, not being able to play with their friends as often. Teenagers, supposed to be enjoying the prime of their young lives before adulthood, now worrying about keeping their family safe. According to Mental Health America, as of 2022, two and a half million youth in the US experienced severe depression and an increasing amount of youth totaling 15% have gone through a depressive episode in the last year.
Adults, who have worked so hard and are now put under extra stress within their home and work lives, the two often merging together. And the elderly, isolated from their loved ones so as to not get sick. Before the pandemic, about 50 million Americans went through a mental illness, as found by Mental Health America in a recent 2022 study. This pandemic may have our physical health on the line, but our mental health has also taken a blow.
We fail to see the decaying mental health of someone truly struggling, and that only becomes more dangerous today. And unlike a roller coaster, we don’t have the pleasure of being able to see the drops, twists, and turns that come after the build-up.
So, how can we help people who are facing their struggles silently? Or how can we well manage our own mental health? One way is to have mental health be covered in our school curriculum. We already have classes like Psychology, but it is just an elective. If we had a class focusing solely on mental health just like any other “health” class as a requirement, it would educate all of us to know more about how to live and thrive, manage our hardships without compromising our mental health. Knowing and understanding is the first step.
Another solution to this problem is mental evaluations. Physical evaluations are already the norm, so why not mental? Providing yearly checkups and routine sessions with therapists or psychologists would enhance our growth and way of living and teach us how to express ourselves better mentally and emotionally.
Mental health is something we just can’t ignore any longer. We are stuck at the top of the roller coaster, unheard, unseen. We are stuck, suffering on our own, because our society won’t let us press on, and work through our problems. Or they don’t see through all the ups and downs of the roller coasters of our minds.
Not only can this be seriously harmful to ourselves and our loved ones, it will also lead to a lack of progress in our society. Just as a broken bone will keep us from moving, a broken psyche will keep us from living a full life.
The small steps we are making towards better mental health awareness compared to our knowledge of it in the past is already something to be proud of. Every small step matters. Each step makes a difference. Each one of us can make a difference. But we have to continue doing the work so we can make an even bigger change in our society and break the stigma that greatly impacts all of us, especially today.
AND THERE IS NO BETTER TIME THAN NOW.
Amazingly composed insight from a voice of the future; thank you 💚