The Mighty Logo

What Math Can Tell Us About Mental Health

7.4 billion people. 196 countries. 6,500 languages. Around 24 million people live in Australia, while America deals with over 13 times that amount. Well over 5 million people share my first name.

Numbers fascinate me, as they fascinate many others. Math is amazing. With math, we can solve problems and find solutions; math has an essential purpose in finding solutions. Yes, math is great.

Math can tell me how much butter combined with how many eggs at a precise temperature for a specific amount of time will give me a cake. But what math can’t do is answer the why.

Math can’t tell anyone why I made the cake; the only way to find out would be to ask me.

When applying the same formula to mental health, it’s the same. Math can tell you how many people live with mental health disorders at any one point in time – around 450 million. Math can tell you how many people die by suicide every year — around 800,000. That information is useful if you need to make a graph or write an information report. But can math tell you why those 800,000 people made that choice?

No, but those people can.

It’s easy to get caught up in thinking your worth is measured in how smart you are; what marks you get; what job you have. What model number of iPhone you have. How many friends you have. The number of activities you are involved in. How many songs you have on your favorite playlist. How many books line your bookshelves. How many countries you’ve visited. The number of pairs of shoes you have. How many years you’ve been a fan of that K-Pop group.

Maybe these things do matter a little, but they are certainly not all that matter.

Five is a good number — it’s the number of fingers on one hand.

And our five fingers can do pretty amazing things.

Five fingers is a dreamy wave to an old friend in the distance.

Five fingers is petting your puppy as she falls asleep in your lap.

Five fingers is curling them around your mother’s.

Five fingers is a high five with a mate.

Five fingers is carrying your best friend’s suitcase when she finally saves enough money to visit you.

Five fingers is waking up your little brother every morning.

Five fingers is accepting that award, no matter how insignificant.

Five fingers is shaking a stranger’s hand.

Five fingers is writing that final note…and five fingers is tearing it up.

Five fingers is gripping them around the knob and opening that door and reaching out…

With each of my five fingers, everything could have been gone.

Those are the things that do matter — and understanding that, understanding one another and most importantly, understanding yourself, is what counts.

Does math have the solution to how you feel?

Does math support you at your worst?

Would you stay alive for math? No.

Because people are the things that matter. And if people matter, you matter.

Previously published on the author’s blog.

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

Conversations 4