I appreciate the fact that the current Surgeon General seems to understand that dealing with mental health issues in the US is not going to be one simple thing that makes it all better. This quote demonstrates that he understands that the problem is multi-dimensional and that any solution will also have to be:
As much as technology has an important role here, what we are calling for in this advisory are much broader changes as well. We’re asking for individuals to take action to change how we think and talk about mental health so people with mental health struggles know that they have nothing to be ashamed of and it’s OK to ask for help. That stigma is so powerful still around mental health, something I experienced as a young person who struggled with mental health. I didn’t know that I could ask for help and I was ashamed. But we’re also calling for expanded access to mental health care, for increases in mental health counselors in schools and investments in social-emotional learning curricula in schools, as well as, finally, for people to invest in relationships in their life.
He mentions some obvious issues, a lack of resources and funding for treatment, a need to help kids deal with mental health issues at a young age, possibly before they turn into more serious problems, and he acknowledges that technology may be playing a role. But, he also seems to recognize that there are larger societal problems that need to be addressed as well. Stigma is an issue, and it shows up in the way we think and talk about mental health. How we talk about mental health issues is so key, and yet we don’t really think about it. When we joke about “crazy” people, or “weak” people who are dealing with depression, for example, we forget how many people around us hear that, and apply it to themselves. We don’t consider how many young kids are already dealing with anxiety and depression but don’t realize it because their parents are dismissive of mental health issues. We tell ourselves that we shouldn’t educate them because they should enjoy being kids as if these things aren’t already happening to young kids.
The mental health issues among youth and adults are not going to be fixed easily. If we truly care about ourselves and each other, we’ll have serious conversations about all of the ways each of us can contribute to making it easier for anyone to get help and learn to deal with these issues before they self-medicate themselves into much more serious problems down the road. Are we, all of us, willing to do that? Or is it easier to pretend that mental health problems don’t exist in our circle and are not our problem?
They do exist in people around you. Do you care enough to see them and change how you think and talk about it?