Monday, October 10, 2016

What Does Mental Health Acceptance Look Like?

Today is World Mental Health Day. It's one of the few days each year where even those who are not specifically mental health or chronic illness advocates seem to be interested in the subject. My guess is mostly because the hashtag is trending on twitter, and people who may not normally see posts about mental health do. I'm kidding, but only partly (it really was trending). Whatever the reason, it makes me happy and proud to see such a large group of people speaking out, or at least following along with the discussion, liking posts and retreating tweets, and what have you.

Needless to say, every day is mental health day for me, and for everyone else who makes up the twenty five percent of the US population that battles a mental heath condition. That's right, approximately one quarter of people in the US. One third when including addictive disorders. Which may seem startling in itself. What's even more incredible is that despite this glaring number, society at large likes to pretend it isn't an actual illness, scraping the subject under the carpet, only to pull it out when they need an easy scapegoat for some sort of tragedy. As those of us who advocate increase in number, refusing to be pushed down and quieted, we are making headway. Still, we have a long way to go before mental health is truly accepted.

So, what does that mean, mental health acceptance? To me, acceptance is:

  • When you understand that it is a medical condition, in an organ, that just happens to be the brain. Just like any other chronic, physical condition, that affects a particular organ or system.
  • When we no longer have to explain why it is not "all in our heads", no longer told to just be more positive, look on the bright side, adjust our attitude, be more grateful, and we'd be better. 
  • When we can take a sick day for our condition just as someone with asthma or diabetes or heart disease would, without any overt or subtle backlash. 
  • When our conditions are covered by insurance companies and other healthcare providers just as physical conditions are. 
  • When our veterans suffering from PTSD get the care they deserve. 
  • When we can openly tell people about our illness without sideways glances, backing away, awkward pauses. 
  • When you see us as a person, an individual, and not our condition. 
  • When you realize that not everything we do or say is because of our condition. We are entitled to emotions just like everyone else.  
  • When you stop thinking that we'd be better if we were "normal". 
  • When people understand that we are 10 times more likely to be VICTIMS of violent crime, not perpetrators.
  • When you understand that (hypo)mania, panic attacks and anxiety are serious, and not us  being "dramatic". 
  • When you realize we didn't choose our conditions, just you did not choose asthma or diabetes or cancer. 
  • When you understand that it is a depressive episode, and not us being lazy.
  • When we don't have to explain that we aren't being rude or boring, we have social anxiety. 
  • When you stop trying to shame us for taking medications that save our lives. 
  • When you are as willing to help someone in a mental health crisis as you are in a physical health crisis. 
  • When you realize that depression can be a fatal illness. 
  • When people are no longer afraid to speak out about a loved ones suicide, or seek help for their own suicidal feelings. 
  • When we stop having to pretend we aren't sick because it makes you uncomfortable. 
  • When you call us strong for living every day of our lives with this illness, instead of crazy. 
That is mental health acceptance. 

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