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What I Want My Fellow Millennials to Know About Therapy

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Being in your 20s and 30s can be hard. Being in your 20s and 30s while struggling with mental illness can be even harder.

Millennials have a bad reputation. We’re often seen as being lazy, unmotivated, codependent and superficial. In reality, we’re coming of age during a time of incredible social and economic uncertainty, while being broadly expected to succeed more, complain less and lead lives that fit a social media-driven narrative of happiness. Combine the complex socioeconomic landscape with deeply rooted stigmas surrounding mental health care, and what you end up with is a generation of adults who probably need some support, but who are too often hesitant or unable to obtain it.

So much happens during this phase of your life — from starting first jobs to discovering new ways of understanding yourself — that coping with mental health issues can sometimes make this already confusing and stressful time feel almost unbearable.

Let’s take a moment — on this platform that already beautifully normalizes and validates the experiences of those with mental illness — to talk about a valuable, but sometimes complicated truth: it’s OK to not be OK, to need help. Whether you’re coping with a mood disorder, struggling with addiction or just feeling bogged down by the realities of your day-to-day life, it’s OK to seek professional support. Truthfully, it’s more than OK. It takes courage and strength to acknowledge — even to yourself — that you’re struggling, and to reach out for help.

Of course, we can’t discuss help-seeking attitudes or behaviors without also discussing culture and privilege. It’s important to recognize — and not become complacent about — the fact that access to quality mental health care remains strikingly limited for members of the LGBTQ community (particularly youths), people of color, immigrants and the uninsured. This conversation could never be exhaustive in this context, but my goal is to recognize that not everyone is able to address their mental health issues, even if they’re aware of them. Sometimes this is because of a lack of free time or spare funds for therapy, a scarcity of accessible, supportive or affirmative services or a lack of familial and cultural support.

If this sounds like what you’re going through, I know you’re probably doing your best right now. And if reading this site is the only support you can access, please know that’s valuable, too.

Maybe you’re thinking about seeking help, but you’ve never been to therapy before and don’t know how it works. You’re not alone! Use online search engines, insurance databases and friend referrals to find a therapist in your area, then ask them what you can expect. Keep in mind, though, not every therapist works the same way, and it can take some trial and error before you find a professional who you really click with. Finding a therapist is a lot like finding a good pair of shoes: you sometimes have to try a few on before you find the right fit.

Already seeing a therapist? I’ve got five words for you: Heck yes, you’re in therapy.

So many people have a hard enough time remembering to take care of their teeth two times a day (or is it supposed to be three?), let alone setting aside an hour each week to look after their mental health. Whatever it is that brought you there, and whatever it is that keeps you going back each week, is something worth applauding. Heck yes, you’re in therapy.

For many people coping with mental health issues, one of the greatest burdens they carry is that of the seemingly endless stigma surrounding seeking mental health care. Particularly in the United States, there is such an emphasis placed on being “strong,” “resilient” and “healthy.” We idolize people in the media who fit a mold that we’ve created in our shared subconscious. We elect officials who outwardly represent traits we deem “capable” and we shy away from or brush aside members of our society who remind us we’re all human and vulnerable.

I’m not saying we should all give two cheers for mental illness (though if you want to, that’s cool), but our generation has the opportunity to contribute to the destigmatization of these experiences in a meaningful way. Admittedly, I’m a little biased (alright, very biased), but I hope if you find yourself in need of help, you’ll think back to this post and remember that your feelings have value, and that you don’t have to go through difficult situations alone. Talk with a friend, call a crisis line, seek out a professional. It’s not always easy to take steps to feel better, but it is admirable.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via umbertoleporini.

Originally published: June 21, 2017
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