by Heysha Garcia-Melendez
Mental illnesses have become a joke and an insult. We’ve used the terms and their meanings so much that we can’t even differentiate whether or not someone is being serious or exaggerating. Serious mental health issues are treated like jokes, as if its only purpose or use is for being “relatable.” This occurred because we are so unaware of mental illnesses. We are unaware of how severe and of how damaging a mental illness can actually be.
That being said, our lack of knowledge isn’t our fault entirely. It’s also based on the fact that we aren’t educated on mental health at all. In our education system, we have not included informing students about mental illnesses and how to actively take care of themselves. One of the reasons for this, is that to some people, mental illnesses just don’t exist or that mental illnesses aren’t as serious as physical injuries to your well-being. Another reason, is that it’s seen as taboo, something dark that we shouldn’t discuss because it isn’t happy and is seen as a weakness. Some also believe that teaching kids about mental illnesses can lead to the child to develop those symptoms.
Not only do we have a lack of knowledge on mental illness, but we also have stigma that surrounds the topic. Stigma–for those of you who don’t know–basically means bad reputation. We’ve given mental illness a bad reputation. We, as a society, haven’t acknowledged that the brain is apart of the body, and that your brain can break. We continuously look for scars instead of symptoms. When we overlook mental illness time after time, we also overlook the people who want and need help. We can never grasp that something on the inside can break too and that might be because we don’t know how to fix that. Since we can’t fix it and we can’t accept it, we just don’t talk about it. Kevin Breel said that, “We have a tendency to say ‘So what? That’s their problem, not mine.” in the same TedTalk he goes on to say, “We live in a world where if you break your arm, everyone goes over to sign your cast, but if you tell people you’re depressed, everyone runs the other way.” Which is true, mental illness is something that individuals struggle with, but what did we do? We pushed it away, shrugged, and said, “Let’s talk about something happier.” However, not talking about it leads to another problem: Ignorance.
Ignorance is the lack of knowledge on a topic. That’s what we have with mental health. We dismiss social anxiety with “just being shy”, depression with sadness, and we use bipolar disorder as a way to say that someone is angry or moody. The fact that we don’t take it seriously is disappointing because we should be better than this. Did you know that 1 out of 4 people, have a mental illness? Did you know that suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in youth(ages 10-24)? Did you know that mental illness is more common than diabetes or cancer? Don’t you think it is time to stop joking about it? When we overuse the mental illness terms we are ruining their importance. So next time you tell someone that they should go die or say something along the lines of “Stop being so bipolar” or anything else that undermines mental health, stop and think about it. It’s time we start learning and start correcting. It’s time we learn that mental illness and your mental health aren’t a joke.