Despite the progress we've made since the COVID-19 pandemic, I think society still has a long way to go before we all truly understand the importance of mental health. But I believe that we can collectively evolve past the outdated and dangerous beliefs that continue to cripple the lives of so many people.
And I believe that if we understood the extent to which our lives would improve without the weight of the stigma holding us down, I think we'd all put way more effort into getting rid of it.
Even for those of us who work hard to spread mental health awareness, it's hard for us to conceptualize a world without the stigma because we have a tendency to preach all about the negative consequences that result from it:
- Being afraid to seek treatment
- Lowered self-esteem
- Worsening symptoms
These are the pain points we usually focus on because so many of us know firsthand how agonizing it is to deal with them. We reflect on the misery the stigma has brought into our lives because it's all we know. We've been hurt deeply, so we naturally stick to the heartache that is familiar to us. But in framing our conversations this way, I think we miss seeing the other side of the coin.
Perhaps instead of concentrating on the damage the stigma causes, maybe we should start visualizing what life would be like without it:
Would suicide become obsolete, a thing of the past?
Would our relationships with our partners, friends, and family improve?
Would the rate of people diagnosed with mental health disorders decrease?
Would disorders be detected and treated early and therefore not have a chance to progress?
Would people live longer?
Would people experience more financial freedom because they are able to function and focus better?
Would the overall quality of our lives improve?
I pondered these questions for days, and just visualizing the potential effects of widespread acceptance and understanding of mental health improved my mood drastically.
And I believe in my heart of hearts that everyone, if given a choice, would prefer to live in a world where they are free to emote, aren't afraid of being judged, and feel confident in their community's ability to provide the support they need to heal and be well.
The more we see each other advocating for mental health awareness, the more myths we dispel, the more transparency we show, the more conversations we have, the more we conceptualize life without the stigma...the closer we will be to completely changing as a society and experiencing a life of health and vitality that we've never experienced before.
So going forward, I hope to foster real change by showing people what's in it for them when we collectively have a better comprehension of and compassion for mental health.
And I hope you're on board to be a part of the change too!