4 Ways Writing About Mental Health Makes a Difference
Since I’ve been advocating more, I’ve received a lot of support and encouragement from those who are struggling or have watched loved ones struggle. However, there have been a few who have asked me why I write about mental health. The short answer is, I’m not ashamed of my mental health journey and through writing about it, I am able to reach others feeling isolated, lost and confused. But there are so many other reasons I write.
1. To increase awareness about mental health.
I think many people have a complete misconception of what mental health issues really are. The majority of people battling mental health issues are not dangerous, they do not hear voices and they have certainly never been put in a straitjacket. I think they would be truly surprised by how many people they interact with on a daily basis who are facing mental health issues. I think they would be even more surprised to learn that their own tiredness, anger or lack of concentration are actually signs that they need to check in with their own mental health.
2. To bridge the gap between generations.
The younger generations get it. They can recognize their own struggles and want to help their friends. As a crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line, I know that 75% of our texters are under the age of 25. Often, when I ask if they have talked to anyone else about how they feel, they tell me their parents don’t believe depression or anxiety are real. But these kids know they are experiencing things those in older generations have not — cyberbullying, school shooting drills, social media, etc. — and they are very aware of the effect these things are having on their mental health. Yes, being emotional is often a part of the teen years, but when it affects life in such a strong way, we have to acknowledge that it is more than teenage hormones. The earlier mental illness is treated, the better the results.
3. To help others.
It is hard to struggle with mental illness in a world that doesn’t understand it. I write about my thoughts and experiences hoping someone will be able to connect with my words and understand themselves a bit better. Or will become more comfortable in who they are and how they are. Or will have a moment of, “That’s how I feel, I just couldn’t put it into words.” I believe there really is strength in numbers, and the more people we can relate to, the easier it is to heal, move forward and face another day. All while still having a mental illness. A community of hope and encouragement is essential, and I write to help foster that.
4. To help myself.
I don’t speak well. My anxiety often tangles up my thoughts and sends them to my mouth at awkward intervals and speed. But when I write, I can find the words I’m looking for. Writing helps me process what I am struggling with. It empowers me to overcome my anxiety and depression and to share my story. When I see other people benefitting from my words, it helps me embrace my struggle a bit.
The point is, it doesn’t matter why I write; it just matters that I do it. It makes a difference in many small ways: advocating, educating, supporting and coping. And the more small things you put together, the more big changes you can create. If you ever have anyone challenge your advocacy efforts, ignore their words and use yours to educate.
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash