A Mental Health Question I Asked On Twitter (And the Frustrating Responses I Got)
The hundreds of answers I got to my Twitter mental health question, sadly, didn't surprise me as much as they should have.
They actually made me really sad.
And they pointed to the fact that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to mental health awareness.
The Mental Health Question I Asked On Twitter
There it is, but don't click through to Twitter to read the comments just yet!
I want to unpack what I felt when I looked through the answers.
First, there were a lot of answers. This clearly was a question that resonated with many people. To summarize the responses, most people did not even know what mental health was until later in life. They did not learn about it children. If they did happen to learn about mental health as a kid, it was because something disastrous happened to a loved one or themselves. Then, they were forced to learn about it in a scary way. They had no choice.
Some people didn't even know what mental health was until their twenties or thirties. That's unacceptable. And, for many people who responded to my tweet, that was a decade after when I learned about mental health.
And my experience was not memorable. It was in a health class in middle school. It was talked about in passing. I'm not even sure a full unit was dedicated to it. It was like a passing road sign on a long road trip. It was there, but it wasn't part of the main attraction. It simply zoomed by without much consideration.
Why is this happening?
Why did generations of people not learn about mental health until later in life?
And what do we do to change this?
Thoughts On Mental Health Education
First, mental health education needs to be considered just as worthy as other kinds of education.
It just needs to happen. It needs to be a normal part of life.
Why? Because mental health is a normal part of life. It's central to healthy functioning as an individual, a group, and a society.
Second, and this is still all too common, people shouldn't happen to learn about mental only when something awful happens to themselves or loved ones.
That's how it was for me when my mom went through a mental health crisis. I felt totally unprepared to deal with it, and I felt guilty that I was making the wrong decisions to support her. Shame happens when people don't talk about the issue at hand.
But there's no shame when loved ones help others get treatment for physical, and there should be no shame in doing the same for mental health.
For far too long, we have forced our mental health education into crisis windows, short and extremely stressful periods of time when receptivity is at its lowest. Instead, we need proper mental health education that gets to people when they are calm and relaxed enough to be able to take in new information. That's how the brain works. The fact that society still doesn't get this shows just how little we understand mental health.
Yet, there are no simple fixes for this. It's going to take a structural shift to get more people learning about mental health at an early age. But we can do it. We have to do it.
As the many people who responded to my tweet illustrated with their stories, we can't afford to have mental health be an afterthought.
It's a big reason why I share my thoughts with you multiple times a week--to change this.
Thanks for being part of the change.