By Hannah Brown
“You should get some help.” I feel like at one point or another we have all been told this. Whether it’s been during an emotional breakdown, someone making a weird joke, or during an angry outburst, you likely have heard those words. At the time we may have taken some personal offense to this, but I believe it is true for many of us. “You should get some help.”
When I was around 11 or 12 my family suggested the idea of therapy or counseling to me for the first time. I completely resented the idea and responded to my dad by saying that “I wasn’t crazy” and didn’t need any help. In reality, my anxiety was slowly overtaking my day and causing me to have trouble sleeping several nights a week. Even as a little kid, I felt the stigma surrounding the idea of seeing a counselor, taking medicine for mental illness, or talking to your friends about mental health. This caused my already present anxiety to grow and become a negative force in my daily life at school, sports, and home. I hid my own anxiety like a shameful secret and felt guilty for my struggles. I didn’t tell my best friends of my own issues because I was scared they may see me differently or as a burden. Of course, what I did not know is that conversations about mental health can only lead to the growing of friendships, relationships, and can begin to heal some of the brokenness that comes with mental health issues.
During 7th grade, I finally agreed to let my parents get me scheduled with a counselor. I remember driving in the car not quite knowing how to feel and not really wanting to share with her any of my problems, but 10 minutes into the appointment, I already felt comfortable to share openly. I began to feel the stress leaving my body like taking a boiling tea kettle off of the heat. I continued to see my counselor, but I still did not share this with anyone outside of my family. A few weeks later, I got the terrible news of some mental health tragedies.. When I got this news, I was in the car with my best friend, Avery, and her mom, who was like my 2nd mom herself. Avery and I were only thirteen and not exactly sure how to deal with the information, other than to be really sad. Avery’s mom then began to bring up the topic of our mental health, reminding us that she was always there to talk to us and that we should always be there for each other. At this point, I decided that I should tell Avery that I was seeing a counselor. Prior to this moment, I always told my friends I had a doctor’s appointment or dentist appointment when I went to counseling. After I told Avery and her mom, my fears slowly washed away as they only had positive feedback and said they were always there to support me. That night I went to bed thinking of the weight that had been lifted off my shoulders after being honest with my friend about my struggles.
In the following months, I continued to share my thoughts and feelings with people that I loved and cared about. After this, something really ignited inside me, and I was reminded just like I had been the year before, that mental health is not something to be kept ourselves. I began being more intentional about checking up on friends, and friends reciprocated this.
Over the past 3 years, I have slowly gotten better at openly discussing mental health. What I have realized is that when you open-up, other people feel inspired to do that as well, and they see you as someone they can trust. We know from the CDC that over 50 percent of people will struggle with mental health at some point in their life- time, and 1 in 5 Americans experience a mental health struggle each year. I think it’s fair to say that at one point or another every single one of us either has struggled or will.
You may be asking yourself, ok, what now? I am hoping you will do a few things. The first is, do not ever be afraid to ask for help. Even if you are not diagnosed with an actual mental illness, we all have our own baggage, and you should never be ashamed about having someone help you deal with this baggage. The second thing is, never be afraid to have non surface level conversations with your friends about your mental health. I’m not saying you can never talk about last night’s football game, or your new shoes, but if they are real friends, they will be there for you to listen and talk you through whatever you are going through. Opening up to friends, family, and partners can continue to help us work through our own problems and can help others not feel alone in theirs. Thirdly, I ask you to check up on your friends. I know you hear this one a lot, and you may be tired of hearing it, but it is so very important. I don’t just mean putting a post on your Instagram story that says I’m always here to talk. I’m asking you to text, call, talk in person to your best friends, your semi close friends, and even the people that aren’t your favorite. At the end of the day, we are all human and even just being asked how your day was can lead to conversations that are helpful. Lastly, I ask you to know that you are loved and opening up does not ever make you a burden. You are loved by so many people and remember in the nicest way possible that “you need help.”