Mental Health — we all have it, and now we should strive to be more open and vulnerable about it.
TheraPieces* is a Slice of Culture monthly column by Mendez, a graduate student pursuing her Master of Social Work in clinical/medical social work.
TheraPieces will explore what mental health is, how to cope with it, ways on improving life with a mental illness, destigmatizing the topic of mental health and how to improve the wellness of it — without any judgments.
It’s been about a week since the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have come to a close, but the talk about the role of mental health continues to be on the rise.
On July 27, Simone Biles, an Olympic gold medalist for the Team USA’s women’s gymnastics team, made the vital decision to step down from her final event because of her mental health concerns.
It left people shocked all around the world. A lot of people had comments on the situation and many have been calling her, “brave, proactive, and revolutionary.”
In all honesty, Simone was all of these things, but it shouldn’t have been praised as “revolutionary,” I think it should have been considered normal.
Naomi Osaka, an Olympic athlete and professional Japanese tennis player — also the first Japanese born player to win a grand slam — also chose to put her mental health and wellbeing first by withdrawing from the French Open.
These two athletes not only tackled and faced the pressures of their careers every day, but they also brought attention to the importance of mental health in sports.
Whether it involves taking a step down, having a day off, stopping yourself from completing something, or walking away from something you aren’t ready for, it should be normalized and not surprising to make the choice of choosing yourself when things are not okay.
It’s okay to not be okay, and despite the stigma of mental health, it should be accepted and not judged or ridiculed for a choice that puts yourself first.
With all the pressure athletes undergo, it should be understood that even though they are figures to look up to, they also sometimes fall back and shut down. Taking time to focus on themselves helps them recharge and gain control of the situation so that they can perform at their best.
Mental health myths: What we shouldn’t fear
Mental health has a lot of myths that make the stigma grow even further, but not everything that is said against the topic is true, and the taboo of it should be dismantled once and for all.
Here are some popular mental health myths:
There is no hope for people with mental health
This one right off the bat is a myth because mental health can be cared for and treated while continuing to live your life.
It is about learning how to acknowledge and grow past your mental illness to set yourself free from allowing it to hold you back. It’s not easy, but it is doable.
But in order to get there you must put self-care as priority and meet with a professional to help, if you feel like it’s gotten to that point. As long as you continue to choose yourself and put your personal concerns first, it is possible to live a peaceful life while battling with mental health.
The only way to treat it is with medication
Medication is not the only solution to treating mental health, mental illness or coping with the troubles of one’s mind. Therapy, psychotherapy, psychosocial treatments and brain stimulation therapy are other types of treatment that can be helpful. The right treatment would be the one that is best for you.
Therapy does not work
Have you ever heard, “what might not work for you, might work for others”? Well, that applies here. Therapy is always there for people who feel that they need it, and many people have gotten great outcomes from it. But that doesn’t mean it does not “work” for those who have tried and failed with it.
It’s also a two way street — meaning you get out of it what you put in and if you feel that you need a change, then there are other options to help you with your mental health.
Mental health problems are permanent
Although there are no cures for mental health conditions, there are treatments for learning to cope with it.
Our mind can cause our moods to fluctuate depending on how it makes us perceive certain things. When we discover what’s most important to us, we have to learn to focus on those things to help us find peace and happiness. That’s how you win the battle of mind versus self. Once you get this down, your problems won’t become so overwhelming.
Being open about your mental health makes you “weak”
Like Osaka and Biles have both said, “it is okay to not be okay” and “ it’s okay to talk about it.”
Both are role models in the athletic world, and are stronger than ever for who they are.
The stigma of mental health discussion is still out there, and choosing to take care of your mental health and being open about it is far from weak. It shows how strong one is by being vulnerable with themselves and with others.
Being open about mental health is okay and it’s something people should talk about.
People mental health issues are problematic
People going through challenges with their mental health are learning to heal from past trauma or events that affected them in numerous ways.
Healing is not linear and it takes time for people to feel like themselves again. They are not “problematic” but are in need of professional help to assist with their way of living and their perspective of what they want.
Be kind and patient always, as everyone has their inner demons they have either faced or not faced yet.
Saying you have “anxiety depression and/or adhd” is an excuse for just meaning you’re sad/always worried/unmotivated/unfocused
This is not an excuse for people. Everyone’s feelings are valid and some struggle more than others. Depression is more than just being sad, anxiety is more than just being overly worried, and ADHD is more than just “all over the place”.
Each of these conditions have different effects on people, but they are real. It’s important to make the best choice in healing your struggles to become better in the long run.
If you are someone who struggles with mental health or someone you know does, learn more ways on how to break the stigma and be more vocal by clicking here.
We are here, we see you, we hear you, and you are valid and loved. If you would like more information on both athlete’s stories and more, click here.
If you want a specific topic related to mental health covered, Daniella Mendez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.