Tuesday, October 9, 2012
So, How is Your Mental Health Today?
I read earlier this evening that tomorrow is World Mental Health Day. Interesting, because nearly every day, I pass by a building occupied by a mental health advocacy organization.
Today, I noticed, there was something painted on their window. It was a question.
"How's your mental health today?"
When I was growing up back in the 50's, asking someone that question would have been unthinkable. Today, it can still be difficult. How many of your friends have ever underwent treatment for depression, anxiety, obsessive/compulsive behavior or something else considered in the arena of "mental illness"? You might be surprised, because most of these friends would never tell you.
But meanwhile, back to the 50's...
Rich people had shrinks. Poor people had alcohol. And no one talked about it. Depressed? That wasn't an illness, it was feeling sorry for yourself and you could talk yourself out of it! Anxious? Have a drink. Did you have a relative with a "problem?" Well, you hid it away. If you had a problem, you hid it, too.
Does anyone remember the (ha ha, not) saying "Support mental health or I'll kill you?" I do.
It would seem a lot of us were "hiding it". How many U.S. Presidents were "mentally ill", just as an example? A 2006 study claimed almost half of them.
And, of the presidents who "had a problem", almost half of them had depression.
Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the most famous example of a President who struggled with depression, but there were others, along with several very heavy drinkers and, here and there, some individuals who may (or may not) have had bipolar disorder.
So, this question posed by the downtown Binghamton window was very serious.
The good news is, today, the question has an answer. There is help, and less of a stigma. For many months after the flood our region suffered in September of 2011, mental health volunteers showed up at community events, at farmers markets, even at the annual home show. Support groups were formed. Sometimes, all that was needed was an empathetic ear. If more was needed, referrals were made.
Mental health is NOT A JOKE. If the body can be ill, the mind can be ill, too. (sometimes, one can lead to the other.) Getting help and support is not weakness. Shout it from the rooftops. How's your mental health today?
Or paint it on a window.