By Victoria Carney-Paine, LCSW
Mental health is my favorite thing to talk about. Ask me how I’m doing and I’ll tell you if I am a bit stressed, having a really good day, or feeling down in the dumps.
Yes, I understand I’m in the minority when it comes to chats on mental health. Therapists these days!
It’s my hope that one day we all feel comfortable talking about mental health.
Here are some reasons to make this topic more of a focus.
1. It’s interesting!
It can be really interesting and helpful to learn about the inner workings of our minds and emotions. Stomach aches can be a symptom of anxiety? Who knew? Dunking your head into a bowl of ice water can stop a panic attack in its tracks? No way!
2. It reduces the stigma.
There is a huge stigma surrounding mental issues generally. Talking more about them can lessen negative attitudes and shame, leading to increased opportunities for treatment and healing.
3. It can help us understand our own lives better.
Talking with friends or family about mental health issues can help us connect the dots. It can be helpful to understand why you may suffer from stomach upset when you have a big meeting at work, or why you blew up at your partner when all they did was make a simple comment. Learning how our mental health symptoms manifest can help us understand, and in turn, improve our lives.
4. It can deepen our connection with others.
Experiencing emotion and emotional difficulties is one of the most common human experiences. We have all felt moments of sadness, stress, and excitement or happiness. Sharing what these experiences of emotion are like can connect us deeply with other people. It shows us that we are not alone in our pain, and alternatively, it provides us the gift of sharing our joy with another person. Research shows that human connection is one of the main factors in successful recovery from substance use problems. Human connection=healing!
5. It could save someone’s life.
Suicide prevention programs and training tell us that if we are concerned that someone may be suicidal, to directly ask if they are considering harming themselves. Although addressing this head-on may be extremely uncomfortable, it brings the topic to the table and allows space for conversation that may save a person’s life. Alternatively, asking a friend about the state of their mental health and sharing about your own struggles is also helpful. Next time you ask a friend “How are you” and they answer “Good,” follow it up with “How are you really? How have you been feeling lately?” and start the conversation. You never know when someone may need it.