When I asked friends what topics to write about for my Lenten challenge, the overwealming response was "You already have mental health/depression/anxiety, right?" It does seem like a topic that is on everyone's mind these days. And it wouldn't be fair to say we don't ever talk about mental health. It seems like every few months there's a new push to open up conversation and raise awareness about the rising mental health issues in America.
We talk about the larger issue, yet somehow it isn't okay to talk about our own issues. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 26.2 percent of adult Americans "suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. That's 1 in 4 adults. A look at the NIMH's information page on depression alone tells a powerful story. College students and depression. Men and depression. Women. Older adults. High school students. Depression and cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson's, strokes. Every day, millions of us are overcome with the inabilility to get out of bed, to leave the house, to ask for help. Every day, millions of us recall the days when we had those same struggles, yet something stops us from sharing our stories.
It isn't okay to talk about your depression at work. If you post about it on Facebook, you're whining and annoying. If you blog about it, future employers might find it. But if 1 in 4 Americans suffer from a mental illness, then isn't it something we need to be talking about? And not just with our closest friends. Not just with our therapists, ministers, and counselors. But with each other?
We weren't created to exist alone in the world. We weren't created to suffer through our problems alone. When God made Adam, God said that it was not good for him to be alone. God created animals, and then God created Eve. I like to think it wasn't just for the sake of procreation. I like to think that God knew we needed one another not just for physical companionship, but also for emotional friendship.
If we are going to talk about mental health in this country, then we can't just talk about it in the abstract. We have to talk about our own personal experiences. We have to share the stories about the days we couldn't get out of bed...and also the stories of that day we did manage to get up and walk outside. We should tell those stories so we can heal, and so we can help others begin to heal.
I was diagnosed with moderate to severe depression my senior year of college, and it has been a part of my life ever since. Some days are great. Some days are not. I've accepted this as a part of my life, at least for now...so why should it be a secret when telling my story might help others?