Writing about mental health is a significant challenge for any blogger. It is a vast, complex topic. As someone who has never been diagnosed with a mental illness, I can’t talk about mental illness the same way that someone who has a mental illness or someone who has had one in the past talks about mental health. But this is exactly why I can say that having a mental illness, or knowing someone who faces a mental illness, should not be the only reason why you should care about the mental health conversation.
Why talk about mental health?
Whenever someone asks me why I started this blog or how I got into writing about this topic, my answer is always the same: mental health impacts every aspect of our lives, maybe even more so than physical health. Maybe this is why it’s a topic that isn’t talked about enough: because we don’t even pay attention to our mental health states half the time. When you start feeling stressed out, this is a clear sign that your mental health is not in good shape, but you might notice the physical symptoms of it first: your head hurts or your body aches; you develop fever-like symptoms or a nervous cough, your heart starts beating faster. You might take an aspirin or decide to go lie down for some time. Even when you realize that all of this might just be due to stress, you might say “Oh, it’s just stress”, instead of acknowledging that which is stressing you out. You treat the symptoms, because the actual cause might be harder to identify or think about. Mental health impacts every aspect of our lives, and the conversation that surrounds it is not limited to mental illness.
I’m sure that others will agree here: those who do face mental illness deserve to be able to speak about it without being ‘othered’; cast out as weird or strange, or called “crazy” and a number of derogatory terms. Sure, at this point you might not understand their story, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make an effort to hear it. Those who face mental illness need others to care about mental health, too, because mental health is a topic that faces an enormous amount of stigma.
What other things impact mental health?
There are a ton of other topics that should be talked about through a mental health lens, too. Take cultural appropriation, for example. I’ve listened to both sides of the argument on this one, with some arguing that “borrowing” cultural symbols promotes cultural fusion, and others arguing that it promotes color-blindness in the sense of using someone’s identity in the wrong way. For me, seeing people use symbols of my own culture in the wrong way causes a certain amount of stress and worry that people who are not Indian probably could not understand. Examples include wearing bindis at music festivals to look “cool” or “exotic”, or- a much more serious example- the Nazi’s turning the Swastika into a symbol of hate when it has been used in India since ancient times as an important religious symbol.
Think about who you are for second: where do you live? Who do you live with? What is your cultural or racial background? What is your living and working environment like? What are those things that you see on the news that impact you personally? What did you eat today and what does your diet look like on a daily basis? What type of body image do you have about yourself? What are the best and worst things that have happened to you thus far?
Mental health impacts your life in ways you probably don’t think about, and that’s exactly why you should care. Mental health shouldn’t be a topic that people whisper about; you don’t whisper about other aspects of your health, do you? Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and it deserves to be talked about with the same degree of respect.
What can you do?
Are you eager to speak up and share your story, and learn from the stories of others? Here is what you can do.
First, get information. if you are absolutely out of tune with the mental health conversation, google mental health. See what comes up. If you know someone who is in tune with the conversation, ask them to share resources with you!
Second, speak up. If you have questions about something, or are curious to know more about something you don’t understand, ask questions! When I was starting my podcast, I knew I needed more than my own perspective to talk about. I asked in Facebook groups and within my own social circle if there were people who’d be willing to speak to me and share their story. I got tons of responses more than I could keep track of! People are eager to talk to you about mental health if you’re willing to listen.
Third, share your perspective. This is even those of you who might never have had a chance to participate in any mental health movement. Tell someone about it. That’s the best way to get involved! Share your perspective on how you feel about things, and have people respond. You won’t believe how much you’ll learn.
Last, tune in to social media- there are so many people who blog about mental health, you wouldn’t believe it! When I was first starting out, I came across this excellent blog called Gardening Love and I had a chance to interact with the author who loves talking about Ecotherapy for mental health! I’m hoping to have her on my up-coming podcast one day. Speaking of my podcast, my sure to stay tuned for that as well! I’ll be launching it later in August.
Mental health is for everyone, including you, and I hope to see you become a part of the conversation!
Also published on Medium.