Mental health = the care for and awareness of the mind, mentality, feelings and thoughts that we have
Mental illness = a disorder, impairment, dysfunction, or illness of the mind (brain)
I was thinking the other day about how it is that some people still can’t wrap their heads around mental health and mental illness, and so below are the reasons I found. It frustrates me when I find myself arguing with someone about the reality of it, and so I felt I needed an “answer” to why they didn’t understand. And perhaps if you’ve experienced mental illness, then you will find solace in these “answers”, too…
You’ve never experienced mental illness
I think the biggest reason why someone may not understand mental health is that they’ve never actually felt mental illness. It’s like trying to explain a cold or a broken leg or love to someone who hasn’t felt it. You can explain and explain all you like, but they won’t truly understand the feelings or pain (etc.) that goes with it unless they feel it for themselves.
You can say a fire is hot, and it burns, but until you touch the fire how do you really know? Right…
You have no close relationships with people who have had mental illnesses
Again, maybe you don’t understand mental health and mental illness because no one in your family or friendship groups knows about it either or has suffered from illness. This isn’t your fault, of course, but it could be why you don’t understand. Because you could understand more, even if you hadn’t felt it yourself, if you knew someone who you visibly saw suffering day to day.
You were brought up religious
This is not a negative, I’m just saying that it is common for people who are brought up religious to not put as much severity into mental illness as perhaps non-religious people. Religious people believe that their God(s) are their protectors, and if they are going through trying times, then their God(s) will help them through. They wouldn’t seek therapy or medication or even holistic healing to aid in trying times, instead, they turn to their God.
Now, of course, I’m not saying no religious people will care about mental illness and give it the proper attention it deserves, but it can be a reason as to why not. Being from certain countries can also do this, as some cultures do not appreciate mental illness as a real illness either.
You buy into the old ideals
Back in the day, mental illness was really stigmatised. It was taboo. The people who had a mental illness were shunned, hospitalised, ignored, or given a lobotomy…(Yeah, pretty awful).
So, it’s fair to say that older people are less appreciative and understanding of mental illness. And if you, too, believe in the old mindset, then you will not give mental illness (or mental health in general) the attention that it deserves.
I guess the last reason why someone wouldn’t understand mental illness is if they haven’t heard of it. If they haven’t been educated about the mind in any way. Sadly, this can be the vast majority, as I only studied Psychology at college level. Beforehand, we weren’t taught about the mind, anxiety, depression, personality disorders, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, or anything else. How awful is that?
I truly hope that more schools are educating their students sooner so that they can understand themselves and others better.
So, what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you don’t understand mental illness or the importance of focusing on mental health. It’s probably not your fault. But it is your fault from now on if you choose to remain close-minded or rude or uneducated about it. Do the research. Ask around. Have the conversation. And look within.
Just because you’ve not felt something, doesn’t mean it’s not real.
If you need any help in bettering your mental health, or better coping with anxiety, depression, and stress, then my book “You’re As Mad As I Am” may be for you. Check it out here, and download a free sample to see what it’s all about.
If you want to hire me to write about mental health (or other), then don’t hesitate to get in touch!