Talk to them.

Today is World Mental Health Day–a day when, internationally, we recognize the conversation that needs happen more often. When the topic of mental illness is one day closer to being destigmatized. 

I felt compelled to talk about this on because I hear from many of you on a regular basis. The subject matter of my material is intended to reach into a dark place, and that’s something with which some of you have told me you identify. And I’m glad you’ve talked to me.

Because if I could call today anything else, I’d call it World Talk to Someone Day.

Maybe you’re struggling with PTSD. Maybe it’s bipolar disorder that’s weighing you down. It could be depression, anxiety, or something not yet identified by the DSM-IV. It doesn’t matter what it is–well, it matters very much to you and your doctor and/or therapist, but not in terms of the understanding you need from your peers. You are important, and you deserve to be heard. Talk to someone. 

It’s easy to feel alienated when your Facebook friends are posting nonsense like this:

...said the Photoshop hobbyist who's never once experienced clinical depression.

...said the Photoshop hobbyist who's never once experienced clinical depression.

The problem is, the people who share images like that don’t mean you harm, but they don’t understand. They think they do. They think they’re helping. But if you talk to them, if you educate them, maybe they’ll think twice before dispensing tone-deaf platitudes. Maybe their ideas will be changed, and they’ll work to change those ideas for others. Talk to them.

You may have a friend or family member who knows all too well what you’re going through. Or maybe they don’t, but they’re willing to learn, willing to support you. I can’t say that support will cure you, but it could at least open a door to the recovery path. This person doesn’t even have to be someone you know offline. Online communities can be incredibly supportive, no matter why you signed up. Reach out to someone. Talk to them.

On the other hand, maybe you’ve never experienced any of this yourself. You’re blessed with all the right chemical levels in your brain. Maybe, until recently, you thought depression just meant feeling sad, but you know better now. And you know that there’s someone in your life who needs a shoulder to lean on. Offer that shoulder. Talk to them.

Mental illness doesn’t always exhibit outward symptoms, though. Because it’s so stigmatized, sufferers are often strongly tempted to keep quiet. No one wants to seem like a wounded animal or have their day-to-day decisions questioned by the armchair psychologists in their lives. But you don’t have to know in order to act–to change the dialogue from dismissive or even accusatory to welcoming. Strive to be the person amongst your peers to whom everyone feels they can talk. Consider what your everyday words and actions communicate and make an effort to be better. Let the people in your life know you’re there for them. You might not know they need your shelter until you put out that welcome mat. Accept and respect that they might turn your invitation down, but leave it there for them all the same.

Talk to them.

Katy Towell

Author, Artist, Illustrator