Even when we feel like nothing can bring us down, life can become challenging.  It’s hard to enjoy life without being mentally and physically healthy. Taking care of yourself includes monitoring not only your physical health, but your mental health as well.

If we feel under the weather, we make an appointment with our doctor–but for most of us, our mental health is not cared for the same way. When we feel sad or upset, we have a hard time with our career, our relationships, and we start to feel broken.  When this happens, we must seek assistance to start feeling better. We deserve that.

Stop avoiding the topic of mental health. Destructive stigmas have surrounded the topic of mental health, allowing ignorance to prematurely end lives.  Shaming other people or ourselves for unhappiness is flat out cruel and counterproductive.  Have you ever witnessed a time when telling an individual with depression to just “get over it” worked?  Doubtful. Utilizing shame to “inspire” someone is proven to, in fact, not motivate them, but add to their despair.

Mental health complications must be considered and taken care of, just as physical health problems. Because actually, they are entirely connected: mental health issues affect one’s physical health and physical health issues affect one’s mental health.  We need to create a society where no one feels demeaned or mortified because of their suffering. When someone is suffering, we should support them, be kind to them, and show them compassion and a desire to help. Here are some considerations that will help:

1. Everybody experiences pain.

Have you ever met someone who is always joyful and content?  All the time? Because I haven’t. No matter how “perfect” someone seems on the outside, chances are, they’ve experienced suffering.  The majority of people will, at some time in their life, experience a form of anxiety, depression, aggression, PTSD, shame, or substance abuse disorders—whether it be them directly facing these issues, or a loved one.  Rather than suffering in silence, let’s do as Henry David Thoreau once said, and encourage honest talk. Maybe that’s uncomfortable for you—but that’s okay, you can talk about that too.

2. Mental health assessments are an essential aspect of wellness.

When you check in with your doctor, do you feel embarrassed?  Maybe, but for most of us probably not. Instead, maybe you’re feeling proud of yourself for the careful attention you’re paying to your health.  When people reach out to a psychotherapist or a counselor, they feel ashamed. But what’s the difference between checking up on your physical health and checking up on your mental health?  A mental health checkup is nothing to be ashamed of, especially if you feel like you aren’t functioning the way you want to. Taking steps in improving your mental health ought to make you feel very proud of yourself. 

3. Mental health counseling is like a workout for your brain.

When I have a client that comes in reluctantly, I remind them that therapy is like a workout for the brain.  Going to the gym is something people praise others for doing. Because isn’t maintaining our health what we’re supposed to do?  Therapy is the exact some concept. People should be praised for desiring to improve their mental wellbeing. Therapy produces new brain cell networks, sets the mind and body at ease, eases life’s challenges, and aids us in success as we work to produce the best versions of ourselves that we can.

4. Having knowledge about your emotions is powerful.

Society today is not very nurturing, causing anxiety, depression, and substance abuse disorder rates to be sky high.  Accessible education on emotions and better understanding our mental health is few and far between. Taking time to educate people on how childhood experiences affect adult mental health could be the change society needs to understand how to relate to one another. Furthermore, emotion education debunks myths like “emotions are just for weak people” and we can control our suffering with “mind over matter.” Schools should be educating their students on ways to overcome trauma, skills for having better relationships and handling relational conflicts productively.  Doing things like this could in turn, help eliminate bullying. Parents should be educated on emotions, so they don’t unwittingly create shame and anxiety in their children. Instruction on emotions and how they affect the brain, body, and mind, has boundless power to modify society for the better and maybe help slow the growth of depression, anxiety, suicide, and addictions.

5. Judgment is the opposite of helpful—it’s destructive.

For most of us, change and being different is scary.  It’s easy to judge someone who is different than we are.  Judgment, while a form of misguided emotional protection achieved by distancing ourselves from those we fear or don’t understand, is destructive for all of us. Judgment discredits those who suffer, and we all suffer. Rather than judging others for feeling their emotions and sorrow, can we dive into our assumptions? Let’s question the source of our judgment.  With the correct support, the effects of suffering can be lessened. Be proud and feel power in monitoring your mental health. What a difference it makes to wholeheartedly say to someone seeking help, “Good for you! I could use some help myself!” Because we all can.