Welcome back to 'Let's Get Coffee'-- if you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that I am a huge advocate for talking about mental health, and mental health stigmas. Because of the graphic detail that I use in my LGC's, I get lots of questions online, and in real life of people asking, "why are you talking about this?" Some of the posts that I write are quite graphic, unconventional, and sometimes purely sad. I don't write these posts for shock value; nor do I wish to paint myself as a tragedy. But it's because some of these subjects feel taboo, that they need to be talked about more. Today, I want to chat a bit about why I think it's so important that we have conversations around mental health.
For a little background, the first time I was diagnosed with depression, I was fourteen years old, and a freshman in high school. A good friend of mine had committed suicide, and that triggered something in me. My family also has a history with mental illness, and clinical depression runs in my genetics. After my friend died, I went into a hole, and I was encouraged to see a therapist and try antidepressants. My mom was incredibly hesitant on getting me the help that I needed- she's Chinese, and a lot of Asian countries have a really strong stigma around mental illness. I was only fourteen, and didn't understand mental illness myself, so it was really hard to figure out "what's wrong with me."
Today, my mom is my biggest supporter, and I feel incredibly safe talking to her about mental illness, but that first introduction taught me that not everyone sees mental health or treats mental health the same.
Mental illnesses are incredibly common. More common than any of us think. More common than any medical statistic says. Statistics only tell you who has been diagnosed. Lots of people never go and see someone. Lots of people live in countries where they have no one to see. Lots of people live in places where mental health is not talked about.
Real people need to talk about mental illness, because media so often gets it wrong. Because TV shows like '13 Reasons Why' teach viewers that suicide is the direct result of bullying, rather than any underlying signs of mental illness. '13 Reasons Why' is a glamorized story of suicide revenge- very little commentary is ever made about Hannah Baker's mental health. We need to talk about mental illness, because shows like Pretty Little Liars teaches us about bulimia through a character called 'Fat Hanna', who overcomes her eating disorder by becoming skinny. There is never any discussion about the underlying mental health concerns behind ED's, nor the steps to recovery (which have nothing to do with weight loss).
*DISCLAIMER* I am not bashing these shows, but simply making commentary on their poor representation of mental health.
Real people need to talk about mental illness because media is about money and entertainment, and mental illnesses are not entertaining. An interesting story doesn't make an accurate one.
I talk about mental illness, because when I was fourteen, I didn't know the difference between depression and being sad. I talk about mental illness, because it took me too long to realize I had an eating disorder, because I didn't look like a skeleton. I talk about mental illness, because everyone has their own story and experience, and having real conversations can teach us more than Googling "am I depressed?"
I know that not all of my followers live in a place where they can talk about their mental health. I know that not all of my followers live in a place that validates mental illness. We need places online where people feel safe talking about mental health.
People need to know that their experiences are valid.