To be honest…with Kristen Agar

To be honest, I’m tired of the social stigma that surrounds anxiety and depression. These mental illnesses affect such a large number of individuals, yet they are frequently swept under the radar or looked upon with shame. Society has strongly downplayed the effects of anxiety and depression, allowing the terms themselves to become marginalized and belittling those who truly suffer from them. A panic attack is not how you feel when you drop your iPhone and it lands face down, and tonight’s menu in the dining hall is not depressing. However, these expressions continue to be thrown around in everyday conversation. The common use of these terms undervalues the true effects of anxiety and depression and disrespects those who are impacted by it.

The terms are being used in conversation, but not in the way they should be. We need to start an appropriate conversation, and we need to keep it going. Too frequently, I have found discussions about mental health being shut down. Many people seem to be afraid of the topic, as if they might catch it by talking about it. Mental illness should not be taboo. Approximately 40 million Americans over the age of 18 suffer from this mental illness, but only around 33 percent of these individuals receive treatment. This is largely due to the stigma that has been implanted in us from our earliest days. We label those who are different from us as “weird” and ostracize them from society. We believe that therapists are the doctors that crazy people go to. But in reality, most people who suffer from anxiety and depression are those who you would not expect. We are average people. We live normal lives. There is nothing wrong with us, we just function differently. I’m tired of hiding a major part of myself from those around me out of fear of what society might label me as.

The conversation around anxiety and depression is improving, but it is still far from where I want it to be. Celebrities commonly open up about their struggles with mental illnesses and become advocates for seeking help. They receive extensive support for the strength they show in vocalizing their struggles. For example, many fans recently took to Twitter to praise rapper Kid Cudi for his strength after he checked himself into rehab for depression and suicidal thoughts. He made this announcement a few days before Mental Health Awareness Day, and the topics combined started trending on Twitter. But this was only a week ago, and the conversation has already stopped.

The expansiveness of the topic opens the door for a lengthy conversation. It is important to be open about the topic in order to create an environment of support, not judgement. Mental illness doesn’t just go away, but it can be handled with proper coping mechanisms and medications. However, we have to be willing to ask for this help. Acknowledging mental illness is scary, but it is much easier when you know you will receive love and support. This is the type of society I wish we could create.

Mental illness will never be an easy topic to discuss, but I’m tired of concealing it. I want the world to accept me for who I am and see that I reach far beyond my anxiety and depression. It will always be a part of me, and I’ve decided to start embracing it. I’m realizing that there is nothing wrong with me. I’m picking myself up on the worst of days and reminding myself that my story isn’t over. I’m finding comfort in my own skin, and I’m standing up to #stopthestigma.

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