Why We Need to Individualize The Way We Talk About Mental Health
I'm as much of a champion of mental health at Penn as anyone, but God forbid we talk about my mental health.
Many, many letters ago (maybe even in my first one), I wrote about my high school paper column, "Oh Really?" For one of those installations, I wrote a long satire piece about depression and anxiety. And while using satire to talk about mental health sounds a little counterintuitive, it was the only way I could verbalize the complicated feelings that I'd long struggled with. After sending it to my best friend, the only person I really ever talked to about mental health in high school, I quietly tucked it away. The column never saw the light of day because I eventually chose not to publish it. I never looked at it again until about roughly twenty minutes before writing this letter, almost exactly four years later.
What's disappointing, I guess, is how little I've learned from that experience. I'm still so, so hesitant to talk about mental health. We're always complaining about how bad mental health is at Penn, how hard it is to get an appointment at CAPS, how difficult the balance can be, but these are always explained in sweeping generalizations. It's never my struggle or my battle, it's someone else at Penn. I'm as much of a champion of mental health at Penn as anyone, but God forbid we talk about my mental health. There's a mass of anonymous students struggling at Penn, a group I assign the struggles and anxieties that I know I also struggle with. But we need more mental health discussions not for me, never for me, for them, this made up group of secret sufferers.
The most important thing about the Mental Health Guide is just simply talking about mental health. Starting a real conversation, one that begins with the Daily Pennsylvanian as a company discussing what it means to cover mental health, and hopefully trickling down today into living rooms and libraries. It's just as simple as owning up to our fears or anxieties or insecurities. They get the best of everyone, sometimes. No one is perfectly healthy and happy all of the time, and it's okay to own it, and admit it, and just even let yourself feel it sometimes.
So, I'll start with this letter. I sometimes struggle with staying mentally healthy. Just like everyone.