By Jasmine Vohra, and Heyam Muflahi
To most people, the phrase ‘mentally ill’ brings to mind a vivid image. Perhaps of a man or woman shaking back and forth, muttering to themselves. Maybe you think of an insane asylum full of mental patients, repeatedly slapping themselves on the head. Although these people are, in fact, mentally ill, they are merely a section under the broad spectrum of people who are forced to fight with their minds every single day.
According to Newsweek, nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness each year. The majority of this, are people who experience anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. – the types of mental illnesses that would not allow them to be pinpointed from a crowd. They are your mailman that handed you the form to sign with shaking fingers, the woman sitting across from you on the train with her head hung low, the girl in your class that always seems to not have her homework done although the dark circles prominent on her hollow, sunken face never fade.
Certain mental illnesses are treated as a joke in our society, as if they aren’t legitimate. As Neha Gautam of class 2019 says, “People who experience the smallest amount of sadness will call themselves depressed, while truly depressed people seriously can’t find the will to get up in the morning.”
Someone with social anxiety might be told to go out more to fix their problem, while someone with a broken leg won’t be told to walk it off to fix theirs. Why is it that someone with depression will hear “have you tried, you know, not being sad?” while someone with food poisoning has never heard “have you tried, you know, not throwing up?” If someone breaks an arm, people run over with brightly colored markers to sign the cast; if someone opens up about depression, people run the other way.
There is in fact a difference in what each person is suffering from, however the way we approach people who are mentally ill needs to be thought out. Whether it is speaking to them about their problems or doing something that would cause them to be uncomfortable, we need to be cautious. If they trusted us with their personal issue we should respect it and absolutely not ignore it. No one with anxiety needs to hear that “everyone has those days”, while people who have a slight cough are told to take care of themselves and go home if they need to.
Mental illnesses may be invisible to some, but they affect your brain in a way that cannot be imagined. It affects certain people more than others. In most cases, the intensity depends on the people they surround themselves with and their environment in general. While some do end up in mental hospitals due to their situation, others show signs such as lack in motivation. This lack can possibly be in school and their grades, or with keeping relationships with others. Therefore, it may be difficult for these people to act themselves around others, to the point where you do not see the pain they are dealing with.
It comes to a point in our society where we believe that certain people could not possibly be afflicted. Yet, we must have a mindset that is open to others and not quick to judge. In order for our peers or anyone in general to feel like you are someone they can trust you must be accepting towards them. Be wary to not point out their flaws when an opportunity to do so arises. Our society should make the effort to learn that mental illness affects many, that you shouldn’t be belittling someone who claims they have a mental illness because you refuse to believe it’s real. Physical illness and mental illness must be treated with the same concern because one does not harm more than the other.