The way that society discusses mental illness has changed, leading many more people to share their stories. It is hard to watch the news or scroll through your social media feed without seeing stories about the issues that people have struggled with, many of which are so severe and distressing that it’s hard for people who are privileged enough to live in a first world country such as Australia, and who have relatively normal lives, to comprehend.
Descriptions of trauma such as family issues, bullying or other stressful life events and the mental health issues of depression, anxiety, eating disorders or suicidal thoughts are troubling to hear about. The people who have faced and overcome mental health issues are told their stories are extremely courageous and brave, as they should be. However, the influx of stories about some of the most severe examples of mental health issues can leave people who are facing less extreme variations of mental illness thinking that their feelings are invalid.
What many of us don’t realise is that mental health issues are really common. In fact, 1 in 4 people aged 14-25 will experience mental health issues at some point. It is therefore exceedingly important for people to share their stories of overcoming mental illness. But if people only hear the most severe examples of mental health issues, it is easy for them to fall into the trap of thinking they are just over-reacting.
Not discussing how mental illness can impact anyone regardless of their experiences and privileges can cause people to disregard their problems, even when they are completely valid. Without talking about how everyone can develop mental health issues, as well as the different symptoms and severities of issues such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders, people facing these situations begin to feel invalidated when they compare themselves to others who have faced problems more severe than theirs.
A staggering amount of teenagers and young adults are reported to have mental health issues. Ever since the 1950’s anxiety, depression and eating disorder levels have been steadily rising. Today 27% of high school students in the UK report having mental health issues and these statistics are decidedly similar in Australia.
As mental illnesses are becoming more and more common, students may begin to feel that their negative self-esteem, high stress and anxiety levels and unhappiness are not serious enough for them to reach out for help. Many young adults believe that other people have it worse. As these negative thinking patterns continue, coupled with the stigma surrounding mental health, teenagers bottle up their issues until, for many, they reach a breaking point. It is positive that discussions about mental illness are becoming normalised, but as a society, we must take the time to stress that everyone’s issues are equally deserving of help and destroy the stigma of reaching out.
Even though pain is relative and different situations impact people differently, it can be hard for someone who has been through or is going through a troubling situation to treat their problems as what they actually are – valid and worthy of help and recovery – when they are constantly comparing their issues to everyone else’s. A troubling amount of people suffering from any form of mental illness tell themselves that other people face more extreme circumstances as a way of putting off their struggles and rationalise feelings of invalidity; as if what they are facing isn’t enough to actually be a problem. This harmful rhetoric has to change.
Many don’t speak up about the issues they have faced as they feel like there is someone who has it worse. And, of course, they are right. Around the globe there are people without a home, people who are starving, people who are facing struggles many of us cannot begin to imagine. But we shouldn’t turn our problems into a competition. There shouldn’t only be one person in the world who is allowed to seek help just because they are the worst off. There is no hierarchy for who is facing the most severe circumstances, and there shouldn’t be. As a society, we have to encourage every voice to be heard and dispel the negative thinking that accompanies mindsets such as “other people have it worse than me”.
Society has to address that everybody’s feelings and issues are valid, regardless of their causes. You don’t have to experience trauma to develop a mental illness. While people’s problems may not be equally extreme, they are all deserving of recovery and support. And after all, you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself first.
Nobody should have to feel as if they aren’t worth helping. Every single person is allowed to feel that whatever problems they are facing, whether it is something seemingly insignificant or something that has impacted their lives completely. Every single person is allowed to voice their issues and reach out to get help.
If anyone reading this article is suffering from negative emotions impacting their life, I hope from the bottom of my heart that they understand that they are wholly, completely, 100% valid in what they are experiencing and deserve support which will help them pull through and improve their mental wellbeing. Nobody deserves to suffer in silence because they don’t feel important enough, or that they don’t think their problems are justified. You don’t have to have it worse than everyone else to reach out. There is no minimum requirement you have to meet for your problems to be recognised.
To learn more visit our page What is Mental Health?
If you are suffering from a mental illness and need help, support or just someone to talk to visit our page Support Services for a list of places you can contact.
Sydney is a 14 year old student who enjoys writing and binge watching TV, and wants to be friends with everyone who reads the Rosie Blog.