Updated: Dec 10, 2020
The Dire Need To Normalize Mental Health
You sprain your ankle and you have no issue talking about it over caesar salads and pasta primavera at the family dinner table. You sprain your brain, and it is “too taboo” to chat about because conversations regarding mental health can make people “uncomfortable.” I’m sorry, but what the hell is that about?
In the past, society has painted a general picture of what mental illness looks like, and it ain’t a Van Gogh. Particularly drawing from media portrayals, people diagnosed with mental illness are negatively perceived to be maniacs and are often associated with danger, unpredictability, and violence.
These negative perceptions absolutely prevent individuals from properly addressing and discussing their feelings which can culminate thoughts of self-harm or even suicide. Additionally, negative stigmas can lead people to believe that they are their disorder and accept the stereotypes of their very manageable and treatable illness. This results in a loss of self-confidence and can diminish a person’s desire to accomplish much.
It is high time that these stigmas take a hike and allow for discussions about mental health to be normalized across all generations. These conversations have the power to save lives. Seems easy, and essential, right? So what is the holdup?
Firstly, what does it even mean to normalize mental health? Normalization can mean a myriad of things. It can obviously mean that regular conversations are held and you are remaining transparent with your friends and family about how you are really feeling. It can also mean that if you recognize someone in your life struggling emotionally, you say something like, “This pandemic has been such a hard time emotionally, so I just wanted you to know I’m here to talk if you need me.” And it would not stop there—you would follow through with judgment-free conversations. Sometimes, people just need to be listened to.
Normalizing mental health can also mean that if you are a boss, leader, professor, etc. that you curate a positive culture in which vulnerability and feelings are accepted. Additionally, mental health appointments and days should become apart of your workplace norm. And finally, normalizing can mean when you see mental health discussed in the media, you are not quick to judge, but rather quick to commend. It can be hard to share personal information regarding mental health on large platforms, but many celebrities do because they strive to alleviate the poor stereotypes and stigmas.
Modernly, mental health has certainly shifted further towards the forefront of circadian conversation, but it appears to be generational. By nature, discussing how you are feeling is known to help dissolve feelings of poor mental health, and Generation Z (the current generation) seems to have a firm understanding of this concept.
As more adolescents are highlighting the importance of candid conversation about mental health, more people are actually recognizing their negative feelings and making changes to fix them. So in-touch with their body and its feelings, Generation Z could quite possibly be the most mentally healthy generation on the planet.
Overall, the younger generations are significantly more likely to receive or have received treatment or therapy from a psychologist or other mental health professional, with more than one-third of both Gen Z (39 percent) and Millennials (30 percent) reporting they have received such help. Around one-quarter of Gen Xers (26 percent) say they receive or have received treatment or therapy, and even smaller percentages of Boomers (22 percent) and older adults (15 percent) have gotten assistance from a psychologist or mental health professional.
With their superior mental health, how can GenZers convince the prior generations to get with the program? With undeniable traditional ideals valued at the highest esteem by these oldies, this may be quite the uphill battle. Start by discussing your story. Don’t attack their ideologies, but explain how your life has improved since openly talking about your mental health.
This will be a sticky, muddy, uncomfortable conversation, but DO IT. While it may not be universally accepted, mental health exists across all generations, not just GenZ, so this exchange is exceedingly important.
Mental health is simply a sprain that needs a brace. It does not need to drive your life nor dictate how you live. Talk about it. Normalize it. Heal.