Today is mental health awareness day. Having struggled all day to find what to say I'd like to share some thoughts as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, activist, and student representative.
Mental health is often something that is ignored most of the time. We only really talk about mental health when tragedy happens - like mass shootings or the recent shootings in the US (though this is disproportionately applied to white attackers). Even then this is only done to stigmatize mental health, leaving the impression that those with mental health problems are shameful and dangerous.
This is extremely harmful for us all. It makes people not want to talk about their mental problems. Oftentimes it stops many from seeking help and acknowledging that there is a problem at all. I know from experience how harmful this culture is. Having gone through a period of extreme depression, and having lasting social anxiety I know what it is like to think that you are broken, that your mind is working against you and feeling like you have nobody to talk to. I have watched others who feel like they can't talk to anybody suffer in silence.
Mental health is a huge issue for marginalized groups. In general 1 in 6 people in the UK experience mental health issues, but LGBT+ people are 3x more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders and 6x more likely to suffer from depression than heterosexuals? This is especially true for LGBT+ youth (including those in University) and even more so for trans people in particular.
This is a problem that effects everybody though. Everyone has their ups and downs. Especially when dealing with our complex societies stress and anxieties come and go. Some may experience more than others but what is wrong with having support dealing with these changes in mental states? We already have it for physical health.
Physical health is central to how we view the world. From a young age physical health is drilled into us. We are taught about brushing our teeth, washing our hands, watching our step, what we can and can't eat or touch. Really the list goes on and on. We require physical checks to go to school, university, do sports, all sorts of things. This centrality and exposure lends itself to thinking that talking about and dealing with physical health is 'normal' and acceptable. We need to extend this thinking to mental health for all our sakes.
This mental health awareness day I encourage everyone to try to be just a little bit more open about mental health issues. Remind friends that you are there to talk to, make sure you all know about the support options that are available (at most universities there are counselors of all sorts to help). Stop yourself and others when using ableist language (like "crazy", and "retard(ed)").
Let's work toward building a society where taking care of our minds is viewed just as normal as taking care of our bodies. If we can do that we will all benefit and be better for it.