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Managing Mental Health

Destigmatizing emotional troubles is the first step in understanding it

April 23, 2021

An+adolescent+girl+stands%2C+her+face+emotionless.+The+drained+battery+plastered+onto+her+temple+represents+the+lack+of+mental+energy+caused+by+mental+issues.+

Rhyen Standridge

An adolescent girl stands, her face emotionless. The drained battery plastered onto her temple represents the lack of mental energy caused by mental issues.

Mental health has long been surrounded by a stigma of fear and shame, but in recent years, the recognition and knowledge about the subject has considerably opened up. The ideas that once surrounded issues of mental health seemed to fade. With the new wave of awareness, people grew skeptical of the sudden ‘problems’ people had when they reached out, and were accused of being fake. It was seen as an easy path for attention when no one could prove or disprove their claim. Those who struggled regressed into hesitancy and doubt again, captive to their own mind in a battle for legitimacy. Suddenly, caught between the two pulling tides, the silent victims were again tossed aside in the clashing world of conflicting stigmas and doubts, and because of the recent movements and attention brought to the subject of mental health, those who struggle find it harder to access help as they now face two stigmas: one of being fake, and the other of being feared.

Amidst this, their voices still need to be heard. The silence doesn’t mean they’re better. If anything, they need more support than ever. And they shouldn’t have to wait until they feel broken to get help. None of us should.

We need to normalize asking for help, not just for those who’s struggle is visible, but for anyone who wants to reach out at any time. We shouldn’t have to fight mental illness alone until it gets ‘bad enough’ to seek help. We shouldn’t have to wait for an opportunity where we can go see a counselor in quiet and shame.

Educational and Support Counselor Shannon Harting helps eliminate the barriers between mental, social, and emotional health and academic success. For her, the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding mental health are nothing new, and she understands the hesitancy students may face when reaching out.

“If you notice that you have a change in enjoying activities, or being engaged in life, or really able to connect and focus to the goals that you have. That’s when you’re like ‘okay I need someone to bounce ideas off of and help with’… if there’s a significant problem that you’re encountering that you just need some help kind of figuring out how to navigate, that’s kind of the time to go,” Harting said.

The stigma of fear surrounding mental health stems from a lack of understanding and false portrayal. As our knowledge about mental health increases, so does our ability to open up about the subject.

“If you have some need where you need a therapist or where you need, let’s say an antidepressant, [people might] think that that is going to be like the rest of [their] life…that it’s forever. And I even see that with parents…a lot of concern about putting a student on a medication is because they don’t want them to have to have that forever, [but] that’s not really accurate anymore,” Harting said.

Overcoming the stigma surrounding mental health will start with an understanding of the topic and help us all better reach out when we want help. No one should have to wait to feel broken to help take care of themselves.

“[Mental health] is a part of physical health, no different than taking care of your body, and it needs to be an active intentional thing you do to take care of your mind and your emotions so that you can achieve exactly what you want and be who you want to be,” Harting said.

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