by Abigail Facundo
Talking about mental health issues used to be considered taboo. In Medieval times, people with mental health issues were considered to be demonic or in need of a religious intervention. In early American history, anyone who was admitted into psychiatric institution was forced to endure inhumane conditions and societal shunning. While things have improved, people with mental health issues today still have an uphill climb.
Today we have a more outspoken opinion. About 19.1 percent of adults had mental illnesses in 2018, as well as 16.5 percent of youth in 2016, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Young people today have become more vocal than ever about the issues they face. Popular social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram have become places where young people can describe their days, good or bad.
“Some people may not realize that what they’re going through is some type of mental illness, they could be putting a stereotype over [mental illness],” said Emilie Sandoval, as student at the Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts).
With so many people expressing their thoughts through social media, the definitions around what constitutes real mental health concerns have become foggier. This is a double-edged sword. Thanks to social media, people are generally more well-versed in terms of how to present and cope with their issues.
“At least in this culture, I do think we’re getting a lot better with realizing that it’s very much of a health issue. I do think that society as a whole is getting a lot better at addressing that it’s a medical issue,” said ChiArts social studies teacher Bethany Wassink.
There are some common ways that people deal with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and all the rest.
First, it’s important to reach out to a professional to get proper treatment and advice. In some instances, a patient might need therapy, or in other cases medication. Granted, there are lots of opinions about how effective medication can be.
“There’s ups and downs to it, ’cause then you know there’s side effects,” said ChiArts student Katelynn Montemayor.
Medications may include side effects, ranging from the less scary stomach ache all the way to the possibility of death.
“Sometimes the medications harms the person. It helps in the beginning, but then your body and your brain might become immune to it. People can end up being more messed up in the head,” said ChiArts student Deshawn Townscend.
When you experience a physical ailment, it’s acceptable to call off of work on not go into school. Partially, this is so the sick person will not present a physical hazard to others. Should the same apply to mental health?
ChiArts student Sasha Babbington said that mental health days would be a good thing to incorporate into professional environments.
“[People] need time to just focus on themselves instead of surrounding themselves around certain people that could make their mental illness a little worse,” Babbington said.
“I think that unfortunately people feel like they have to lie. Your employer might not recognize that as an actual sick day. The assumption is, well, if you’re not bedridden you should be at work. But what if your mental health situation means you can’t get out of bed that day?” Wassink said.
Wassink added that there needs to be normalization around taking a break for mental health reasons.
A mental health day can soothe the mind and make a person more prepared to go to school or work the next day. Some might take a walk outside to get some fresh air, some listen to relaxing music, some people sleep, some eat foods they enjoy.
If you are reading this and struggling through an issue, call the numbers below and talk to people who are there to help.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 1-800-950-6264,
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): (800) 662-4357
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): (866) 615-6464
Mental Health America Hotline: Text MHA to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741
The Samaritans: 1-212-673-3000
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255.