Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Slowly but surely, taking care of yourself and your own mental health has become more mainstream. Eventually, I hope that one day it will become widely accepted. Until then, the fact of the matter is, there's an elephant or two in the room: the stigmas behind mental illnesses and mental health in general.
Mental illnesses are very stigmatized, inadvertently causing the topic of mental health to also carry a weight with it when brought into conversation. Taking care of one's own mental health is something anyone and everyone should do, especially in the midst of a pandemic as we are now. Taking the time to de-stress and find someone to (safely) lean on is more important now than ever.
I say mental illnesses are stigmatized, but what even is mental illness? According to the Mayo Clinic, mental illness is defined as, "a wide range of mental health conditions—disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior." Some examples of mental illnesses include depression, anxiety disorders, ADD or ADHD, eating disorders and bipolar disorder. Treatments of these mental illnesses include a wide variety of things, but the two most well-known and popular are therapy and medication.
The stigma behind the term "mental illness" makes it hard to talk about your problems to family, friends, colleagues, professors, etc. about what you're going through and the symptoms you have to deal with. Nothing about dealing with these problems is easy. Usually, mental illnesses are cast aside as unimportant, but health-wise, what could be more important than your brain and how it functions? In order to be the best you that you can be, taking care of yourself and actively trying to improve your mental health is very important.
Another stigma is that you need to have a mental illness in order to see a therapist or counselor, which is false. Everyone goes through good and bad stages in their lives, and everyone needs help sometimes. Seeing a counselor or therapist is a great way to get the help you might need from someone who is trained to know how to help you. The amount of good a trained professional can do for helping you breakdown your problems, emotions and helping train your psyche is invaluable.
Taking care of yourself, being proactive, and trying to better yourself mentally is one of the mature and best things you can do for yourself and others around you. A good way to make sure you're taking care of yourself is to create a checklist or set reminders to do certain things. For example, make sure you de-stress, take care of yourself physically by sleeping, eating, drinking water, getting exercise and showering, (safely) maintain social interaction, take time for yourself and stay up to date on your work whether it be for school or your job.
I'm glad that many people are starting to hop on the mental health advocacy band-wagon, but there is so much more that still needs to be done in order to educate people about what they're feeling, how to help themselves, and to get rid of the stigma centered around mental health in general. By being an advocate for yourself and your friends you can be the help that they might need and influence others to feel encouraged to take care of themselves.
Talk to people you trust if you're feeling down or think you need help. Lean on others the way you would let them lean on you. If you think you have a serious problem or even just something that you feel you need help with, schedule an appointment with a counselor or therapist. UK's counseling service is free during the school year and currently offering telehealth/virtual appointments.
24/7 Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255
UK Counseling Center Number: (859) 257-8701
UK Counseling Center Website: https://www.uky.edu/counselingcenter/individual-counseling