COLUMN: Silently plaguing the nation

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What is the first thing that pops up in your head when someone tells you they are sick? Maybe you think of used tissues and Nyquil or ginger ale and frequent trips to the bathroom. It’s pretty simple to recognize the physical attributes related to illnesses; however, what often is missed and not considered is the mental aspect of illness.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five adults in America suffer from a mental illness. Even though the masses have improved on their recognition of mental health issues, it is still a silent epidemic that is far from being taken care of.

By Marisa Karpes, Columnist

The stigma around mental health disables many from seeking the help they need, thus suggesting that there are more people out there struggling than is believed. One reason for this stigma is simply ignorance. 

While scrolling through Twitter one night, I noticed a retweet from a gamer I follow. It was a response to a tweet from professional kickboxer Andrew Tate. The original tweet in question — which has over 2,000 retweets and 5,000 likes —essentially stated that depression doesn’t exist and those affected just need to deal with it. Telling someone to just deal with their depression is like telling those in the eye of a hurricane to just prepare for some light rain.

Tate is not the only one in the world with these opinions on mental health. Many see succumbing to a mental illness (especially depression) as weak. They are told they should “man up,” “be happy” and “calm down”. Sadness or feelings of worry are regular human emotions that everyone has to deal with multiple times in their lifetimes, such as when the dog dies in the movie or when final exams are coming up; however, it becomes a problem when these feelings happen frequently without anything to trigger them.

Yet it doesn’t get treated like a problem.

The problem only worsens when someone trying to seek help is faced with no support due to the lack of the belief that mental health issues even exist. Imagine having the stomach flu for weeks, but instead of being taken to the doctor you are told it will eventually go away on its own. This absence of support from peers and/or loved ones discourages those who need help from getting help; they become convinced that the issue could be dealt with on its own, and that they are simply making mountains out of molehills.

Then the news switches to the story of Robin Williams or Chester Bennington, and for a moment the world recognizes that mental health is an issue that needs to be addressed, but then the conversation fades away. The words don’t even linger long enough for the people who lose the fight and don’t make it onto the TV.

We as a community cannot shy away from the mental health conversation just because it is hard to talk about. We have to help those who can’t speak for themselves get the resources they need to get well. We need to better educate the world around us about the attributes relating to mental health and how to identify them in our loved ones. Losing people to mental health issues may always be a problem, but if we work together to speak out about it, it will no longer be killing people in silence.