Hi team, My name is Noggy and we need to talk about mental health. This video is going to be talking about why mental illnesses are so tough to talk about. We’re going to be focusing on two areas, symptoms and stigma, which work together to form a vicious cycle. To break this cycle, everyone, not just those struggling with mental health, need to be a part of it. I’m just going to give a few examples from my own and other’s experiences which will hopefully help paint a broad, general, picture about why mental illnesses are so tough to talk about. This won’t cover everything or everyone’s experiences, every struggle with mental illness is complex and unique, but I think will help folk understand why mental illnesses are so tough to talk about.
Let’s start with symptoms. Mental illnesses are real and legitimate medical problems. But the symptoms often look drastically different than other ailments that we’re familiar with. These differences can make it hard to talk about mental illnesses.
When I broke my leg, it wasn’t that hard to talk about. First of all, I was on crutches, you couldn’t miss it. And for the particularly gifted observers, I had a full leg cast. It was a tough time, or I guess you could call it a tough break. Because it was so obvious it was an easier topic to address.
Importantly as well, I knew what that pain was. I had experienced similar pain when bruising a bone. I was familiar enough with the struggle that I knew how to articulate it.
But when I started struggling with anxiety and depression this was different. Whilst anxiety and depression are just as real and valid of a medical issue as a broken leg, the symptoms they often present make it harder to talk about. Hopefully, as we go through these symptoms you will be able to see that they tend to feed off each other and make a cycle of difficult to talk about-ness.
1. First of all, struggling with mental illness was a type of distress I had never experienced before, both in how bad it was and how unique it was. I was totally overwhelmed and didn’t know how to articulate the new challenge I was facing. Not only was the internal strife hard to make sense of, I had no idea what words to use to accurately communicate my struggles to other people. Even if I wanted to I didn’t know how to talk about it.
2. Another symptom common for mental illness, a sense of loneliness or isolation. Mental illness don’t need to physically isolated you to make you feel lonely. I remember multiple times of being in a room, surrounded by people who loved me, and feeling totally alone, like nobody valued me. I remember feeling so isolated because it felt like I was struggling with something no one else understood. Being isolated from others, even if it isn’t physical, will always make it harder to communicate. That makes it far harder to reach out and chat about struggling with mental illness.
3. A third symptom that shows up in mental illness is a sense of worthlessness. It can be so easy to feel like you aren’t worth other peoples time when you are struggling. This might not make sense if you have never felt totally down in the dumps, but it sucks. The reasoning is ‘why bother talking about my struggle if I am not worth anything?’. Now I know that this isn’t true, everyone is valuable. But I remember lots of times where my feelings didn’t reflect this truth which I think is something every can relate to. Our feelings don’t always match reality.
4. This brings us to another common symptom, feelings of guilt and shame. When you are feeling worthless, you can start to feel so much guilt and shame about being ill in the first place. They are quite common in mental illness and they make it hard to talk about. I remember feeling like such a burden to others, feeling extremely guilty about wasting their time or energy talking about my own struggles. I was also deeply ashamed about struggling with mental illness. I associated mental illness with weakness so didn’t want to let anyone know I was struggling. Without a full leg cast or crutches, I tried my best to hide my struggle and fight it alone to rid myself of the shame. Unfortunately, a lot of extra guilt and shame are caused by stigma.
Which brings us onto stigma. Which is the negative associations and connections people have with mental illnesses. I didn’t think stigma existed when I was younger. I thought people with mental illness were just weak and needed to change their attitude. I was wrong. Mental illnesses are real, and they suck. Unfortunately, hurtful attitudes and lies about what mental illnesses are make them more difficult to talk about. I spent half the time trying to think my illness struggle wasn’t real, and the other half trying to convince myself that I was too strong to have it.
This made my experience with mental illness far worse than it had to be and still messes with me today.
I struggle so much trying not to think of my poor mental health as a sign of weakness. I find it difficult trying to see it as a real illness that I need to take seriously. I have to fight everyday to not to be ashamed about my struggle.
Unfortunately, the culture we live in tells us that mental illnesses are a sign of weakness. Culture tells us that we are a failure and are doing things wrong if we are ill. It sucks and makes it so hard to talk about. If you grew up seeing mental illness as a sign of weakness or a shameful thing, why would you reach out for help when you start struggling?
Hopefully, you can see why mental illness is so hard to talk about.
What happens is talking about mental illness is hard, so no one talks about it. If nobody talks about it, the only voice we here about mental illness is from society. Society gives us a damaging message about what mental illness are, adding to stigma. This makes it harder to talk about, which makes it less likely to talk about. Which means we are stuck in this vicious cycle.
The only way to break out of this cycle this to have a louder, more accurate voice than society. We need to be proactive to break out. If we don’t speak proactively, in a healthy and wholistic way about meant illness, the only voice will be the damaging messages of our culture which add to stigma.
So, to end this video, a challenge. If you are struggling with mental illness, try to talk to one person about it. I know how hard it is. Just try to have one person who you can chat to. Mental illness is a community issue and can’t be fought alone.
If you aren’t struggling with mental illness, you aren’t off this hook. This is a community challenge that everyone plays a part in. Please have healthy and wholistic conversations about mental health. We need to drown out the hurtful voice of society and replace it with something glorious.
In fact, why not share this video, or another like it?
It literally takes a click to share this video and only takes a second of your time but can make a difference to those of us who struggle. I know personally that it means so much to know that other people are thinking about mental illness, even if it is just seeing a video on social media. We need to normalize these conversations.
Thanks for watching, and please be proactive in thinking about mental health.