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Why don't we talk about mental illness the way we talk about physical illness?
Publish date:
September 30, 2016
mental illness, activism, anxiety

I have no problem talking about when I'm sick, whether to my roommates, my mom (her chicken soup recipe is magical, and I keep forgetting to write it down), my coworkers, or strangers on the internet.

Yet somehow, it took me a really long time to actually acknowledge that I struggled with some mental health issues. But no one really thinks the flu is a mental failing or a sign of personal weakness the way they sometimes do when you mention having anxiety.

A lot of the activism I admire and that's most meaningful to me is about reducing stigma — let's talk about our reproductive choices! let's be open about our salaries! — and that's why I think #TalkingAboutIt is such a great initiative.

Started by Sammy Nickalls (who, full disclosure, I have been admiring/following on Twitter for probably a solid year at this point), #TalkingAboutIt aims to normalize the discussion around mental health by treating it just like physical health.

There was a long time when I thought everyone else was out living beautiful, shiny lives without me, or that I would be burdening or freaking people out if I so much as mentioned feeling anxious or like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel of my personal reserves. It's immensely comforting to see other people handling their mental health just like their physical health: without shame, and by being kind and taking it easy on themselves. As Sammy mentions on her site:

"I wanted to help make this mainstream, open, welcoming to those who may not have sought out an outlet but desperately needed one. Silence perpetuates self-blame, which perpetuates mental health struggles…it’s a catch-22, and talking about it breaks that cycle."