In America, there is a large stigma against mental illness. While I believe that people recognize that mental illness exists, there is a stark resistance to accept it. This resistance stems not from others but from recognition of the problems within ourselves. We fear being called “crazy,” being unaware of our mental facilities, being broken. The culture around us paints a nasty picture of people suffering from mental illness, even though it is likely that at some point during our lives each and every one of us will suffer too.
Having a mental illness does not mean you are broken, or crazy, or wrong. Quite the contrary, it is part of the human experience, and just like seeking help for a physical malady or disease, we should seek help when we need it. Our mind is ours and ours alone, and we have to live with it every day, so it makes good sense to take care of it.
It’s hard. It’s not like going to the doctor, taking some medicine, and all of a sudden feeling better. Treating mental health takes work, work that is uncomfortable, work that makes us wish we didn’t have a problem. But it’s so, so worth being comfortable in our own skin.
One thing I think we should recognize in the grand scheme of shifting our attitudes towards mental health is that animals, from our cousins the great apes to our best animal friends, suffer from mental illnesses as well. And they do not have the luxury to seek out professional help on their own. They typically suffer, and that’s unfortunate, because simply googling “dog” and “OCD” can bring up a deluge of “cute” videos, but it isn’t until watching several dogs chase their shadows all day, or pace up and down, or bite and chew themselves to the bone, that this suffering stands out. We draw a lot of inspiration from animals, and we model much of our understanding of life’s complexities off them. So, while we seek help for ourselves, we should seek help for them, and realize that we are all on the same boat.