I’m writing this blog from the side of the road. Seriously. I was listening to NPR, a piece about a shortage of psychologists. Turns out the baby boomers need mental health care just like they need regular health care, and the increased population means there aren’t enough psychiatrists and psychologists to go around at the moment.
Side note- if you’re looking into these fields, apparently you will find yourself quite employable!
I was sort of half listening when the guest said something that caught my ear. (Definitely half listening, or I would have some name or title more specific than “the guest” to share with you….) He mentioned how mental health discussions are so often buried under the rug, explaining that if you have a surgery, as an example, people bring flowers and you post updates on social media and everyone is very supportive.
If you have a panic attack, however, we don’t share or handle it the same way, and we don’t expect people to react with unbridled support, either.
This kills me, and goes back to a point I’ve reiterated so many times on the blog you may be sick of hearing it, but it is worth repeating:
We HAVE to share our mental health stories in order to slowly chip away at the stigma surrounding these issues.
After all, doesn’t someone suffering a severe bout of depression deserve just as much support as someone who broke their leg? Might it even go further with the person struggling with the point of life in general?This talk also reminded me of a wonderful article posted on The Player’s Tribune a few days ago by NBA player Kevin Love. He wrote a beautifully honest piece telling the story of a terrible panic attack he suffered during a game a few months ago. Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack will recognize that terrible feeling- the one like you might die any second and you don’t know why.
Love describes his lifelong habit of keeping in his feelings, of not talking about what he was going through or opening up to anyone. He mentions how this especially effects men and boys and issues a call to change.
“I’ve never been comfortable sharing much about myself. I turned 29 in September and for pretty much 29 years of my life I have been protective about anything and everything in my inner life. I was comfortable talking about basketball — but that came natural. It was much harder to share personal stuff, and looking back now I know I could have really benefited from having someone to talk to over the years. But I didn’t share — not to my family, not to my best friends, not in public. Today, I’ve realized I need to change that. I want to share some of my thoughts about my panic attack and what’s happened since. If you’re suffering silently like I was, then you know how it can feel like nobody really gets it. Partly, I want to do it for me, but mostly, I want to do it because people don’t talk about mental health enough. And men and boys are probably the farthest behind.”
It’s a beautiful piece, touching and truthful. Hopefully it inspires many to open up about their own struggles or reach out to get the help they need. I find this especially brave because Love is not only a man but a professional ball player, and society certainly puts extra pressure on these guys to be the pinnacle of “masculinity.”
You can read the entire article here, if you’re interested:
There is no shame in struggling with mental health issues. When you start to talk about them, you’ll be shocked how many people are going through something similar or their own version of your struggle. As Kevin Love reminds us, “everyone is going through something.”
Take the step. Reach out to someone you trust. Even if you just send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – that’s a start. There are people who will understand what you’re going through, and so often just putting words to the feelings will help so much.
Hopefully our mental health care support in this country catches up to our needs soon. In the meantime, we can certainly take matters into our own hands and be real with each other. It’s a start. It takes courage. You can do it. We can eliminate the shame we carry if we start with a little bit of scary honesty.