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Start Talking About Your Mental Health

All health begins with good mental health, and good mental health begins with a conversation

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Created in Midjourney

A friend recently sent me a link to a public service message about mental health, it encourages us to check in on those closest to us, to ask how they’re doing.

What I noticed when watching the video is that the man’s friends did ask him how he was doing. But he chose not to be vulnerable, he chose not to confide. It was the wrong time, it was the wrong place, men don’t cry, all that bullshit.

I believe that we all care about the mental health of our friends. I believe that given some sort of sign, we’ll extend a helping hand, and give a comforting hug. The problem is that all too often, we don’t get that sign, and before we know it, that friend can be gone.

I’ve suffered from debilitating periods of depression in my life. I always appreciated check-in calls from my closest friends, but I often didn’t want to talk about my problems. I didn’t want to bore them with the details of my lack of motivation, or the anxiety that rose up in my throat at the thought of getting out of bed.

I’m fortunate that my thoughts have never been of the suicidal sort — when I was at my worst, the idea of ending it all just seemed like too much work. So here I am, and I’m better for it because I learned to talk about my problems, and I’d like to pass on this message to you.

We’ll all be better off with a little less perfection and a little more vulnerability

Telling people to be more vulnerable is unlikely to work directly, the only real path is to be vulnerable yourself. If you think a friend may be suffering from mental health concerns, tell them about your own concerns; we all have them.

The most astonishing thing happened after I began talking openly about my bipolar disorder and depression — people started to open up to me every single day about how they too suffer from depression, anxiety, loneliness, and crippling stress. Trust me, it’s not just you.

It saddens me how much stress society puts on us, without adequate training in how to deal with it. For too long, mental health has been seen as the ugly stepchild of overall health. Ignoring the fact that all health begins with mental health.

What’s wrong with you? Snap out of it!

Psychiatrists are among the lowest-paid health professionals. It’s a reflection of the stigma that has surrounded mental health in the past. But it’s also a reflection of 50 years of psycho-pharmacology that have failed to increase public health but have filled to overflowing the coffers of the makers of Prozac, Ozempic, and Xanax.

What is going to solve the mental health crisis is talking about the mental health crisis and talking about our own struggles.

I like it when people feel comfortable telling me they’re feeling off. I’m able to pass on things I’ve learned in coping with mental health issues. That spending time with friends is always beneficial, even when you don’t feel like it. That there are dozens of drugs and therapeutic techniques that your doctor has never heard of and that might work for you.

That it’s ok to feel these emotions and that talking about your emotions makes them less impactful.

It’s really difficult to change other people, and it’s only marginally easier to change yourself, but looking in the mirror is the place to start.

A year ago I lost a friend. He had cancer, but actually died from a hospital chemo dosing error. He was going through multiple stresses in his life at the time and I wasn’t there for him.

I tried to reach out, but he didn’t want to engage. I realize now that if I had asked him for help with my own problems, he might have responded. I might have been able to get him to open up if I had talked about myself first.

If you see someone struggling, ask how they’re doing, but don’t expect them to tell you right away. Tell them how you’re not perfect, that you’re not doing so well. Tell them your own story, and hope that they then feel comfortable telling you their story.

With the help of Shy-Kids, my foundation made this video encouraging people to tell their stories. Watch it, share it.

Have you struggled with mental health? Are you in a better place now and have you learned something about how to live a less burdened life? Talk about it to everyone.

Are you in a dark place? Not sure where to turn? Talk about it with a loved one.

Tell your story. It’s not just about you.

I write so I can connect with my readers. You can reach me by responding to this email, by commenting on my website, or by responding to the poll at the bottom.

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