mdxMindset asked students what mental health means to them, and what the most pressing issues in wellness are today. Their responses reflect issues that affect not only students and certain age groups, but also the concerns we should be giving attention to at different levels of society. We’ve included some words from the students themselves here- we hope this opens the door for more expression, more discussion, and more normalisation of mental health across society.
Trigger warnings: Suicide, self-harm, war and conflict, eating disorders, talk of dysphoria, body image and appearance, unhealthy relationships
Mental health is taboo and often ignored.
“Being mentally unstable is not easy. You have to wake up and do your best to get through the day because people obligated you to do it. They pressure you and manipulate you into thinking that at a young age, you’re not allowed to be tired, to be exhausted, to be mentally ill because you’re not working, you’re too young, you’re still living with your parents or guardian. A lot of people experience being neglected and laughed at because they’re suffering from an anxiety disorder and depression – it is never taken seriously. That’s also one of the reasons why there’s a lot of people that committed suicide, because they felt that it is much easier for them to leave this world instead of staying because of the society and the environment that they’re living in. So, if you know someone who’s having a bad day, is quiet and sad or not feeling their best emotions, do not hesitate to ask them how they’re doing or if they’re okay. Because a simple question like “Hey, how are you?” or “Are you okay?” means a lot to those people who are actually suffering, but never had the guts to say it out loud.”
There isn’t enough awareness about mental health.
“What percentage of the world is aware of mental health? Do you think people believe in it? Or is it just a trend followed by celebrities and youth? This concept brings heartache. Even our parents deny the reality of mental health. It is not their fault; the world has advanced rapidly over the decades. At some level, every generation has dealt with it unknowingly. Ancestors lacked knowledge of mental issues. Still, in the 21st century, people are not open to this idea. Is it shameful to accept the fact that your mind needs help? Every single action of the human body depends on the brain’s command.
Do you think an unhappy, exhausted, and pressurised brain can bring you any good? Unfortunately, the answer is no. For some years, the lifestyle has been tight enough to crush people. Mental health weighs as equally as any other illness. Being modern doesn’t mean you have an upgraded version of your phone or car- accepting these subjects of trouble is what makes you ‘stylish’. It also gives you a reality check: there are invisible illnesses breaking people emotionally. In my opinion, it acts as an insect called a wood borer, leaving you hollow and lifeless. Someone who gives attention to their mental health is seen as weak, sensitive, and emotional.
Luckily, we come from a generation that wants to work and contribute to this field. This topic should be in safe hands with us and cannot be shut down until resolved satisfactorily. We don’t want the upcoming generation to be its target. We must set some rules and regulations to overcome this nightmare. Even a tiny step on your end towards it will do. We are not supposed to force anybody into getting help. Everyone has the right to accept their flaws and work on them. These setbacks of life make us a more robust version of ourselves.”
People feel judged and stigmatised when they have mental health problems.
“We all need to be aware of our surroundings – no one knows how someone else could be feeling. The person sitting next to you who is smiling, might be suffering, but you might never notice. You should treat everyone the same way you’d want to be treated, because maybe that ‘weird look’ you give someone, could be a “is there something wrong with me? There is definitely something wrong with me” trigger, and cause many more negative thoughts.
If you see a co-worker, friend, classmate or anyone not showing up for something, don’t be too quick to judge. I’ve personally suffered from a lot, and I’ve had days I would skip school for weeks. I would attend school 2 times within the 5 days of school. I would have friends texting me, “You’re skipping again? What’s wrong with you, you should care more!”, and had a teacher say, “She’s skipping? She will fail. School isn’t something you choose when to come to, not just when your heart desires, it’s a must. She’s failing.”
Let me tell you: these did not make it any better! I therefore distanced myself from my friends and dropped that class in the middle of the year. I had to start everything from the beginning alone, so close to finals, which yet again made it worse. People who are suffering deserve the right to be understood. People need to stop judging and jumping to conclusions – always think about what someone else could be going through, before making assumptions.”
Family conflict is hard to get away from.
“A lot of people think that just because they are your family, they won’t negatively have an effect on your mental health because they love and care for you. People who love and care for you can have a negative effect on you because they are human and they have flaws in their personality. And it’s important that we accept these flaws and acknowledge them for what they are and understand that these flaws can cause you to have a difficult relationship with them. It doesn’t mean you should just give up and cut them out of your life – it just means you should work on it with them while working on yourself. It’s also important not to compare your families to other families and how happy they look, because perhaps everything you see is through rose-tinted glasses.”
Eating disorders affecting people’s health.
“Eating disorders are something that can leave a person in a tragic state of mind – the never-ending saga of thinking that they aren’t right, they aren’t perfect. It’s so easy for people around to tell you “just eat” or “you should cut down”, if only it were that easy to do, if only it were that easy to not care. Every morning waking up with the feeling that you aren’t good enough, that you need to do better even though you might be doing your best. Waking up to the constant feeling of checking your weight to see if it increased or decreased, the guilty feeling of seeing a number change. But maybe it’s time to stop, stop harassing yourself. It’s not easy to stop once you start, but it’s not impossible. Go to a mirror and look at yourself, tell yourself you are sorry, tell yourself you love them, sorry for all the time you made yourself feel guilty, for all the times you restricted yourself, for all the times you made yourself feel bad…laugh, cry…people will come and go but you are always going to be with yourself. You have to treasure yourself and love you because you are the only person that is going to stand by you.”
“In modern life we have people struggling with surrounding society. Some handle it with wisdom, while some start having anxiety and depression. At some point in their life, they might think about giving up on themselves. Nowadays we have the help of psychologists, but not everyone is comfortable going to a mental health centre to be “labeled”. So, people seek help within their reach.
They come to friends and loved ones. Ask for assistance and help, share their emotions. They uncover the horrible truth about giving up. Unfortunately, most people consider them attention seeking and eventually try to avoid them – they feel irritated by suicidal thoughts. No one believes them and pretends the problem isn’t there anymore. Eventually a suicide is committed.
After the person gives up his life, people think of how tragic it was, loved ones start suffering, everyone says how they should have been there for them. They feel bad for not “seeing the signs”. They wish for the person to be present with them.
I want you to remember all of the talks you had with people surrounding you. Were there signs? Were you actually hearing what they were saying? Think carefully. You might not know it, but you can save a life.”
Other issues that came up included: mental health being as important as physical health; life balance; gratitude; social health; emotional and mental reactions to people and events; functioning with mental health disorders; coping; the importance of childhood education on mental health, anxiety and depression; self-esteem; lack of help-seeking; male mental health; self-hate; peer pressure; burnout; concerns about employment; trauma; substance abuse; stereotypes; war and conflict; and “life itself”. We hope our students and community contribute their thoughts and perspectives on these issues in upcoming posts and talks.