The pink elephant in the middle of the room

by Amanda Kerri
Trans Issues Columnist

One of the unpleasant things we tend to never want to talk about is probably one of the most common things affecting people today.

When it comes to the times we talk about this taboo topic, we show it as a moment of weakness; something we mock.

I’m talking about mental health; the big pink elephant in the middle of the room no one wants to talk about.

However, if we actually talked about it, actually addressed it honestly and without judgment, we’d probably have a better society and a lot healthier people.

In a given year, about 19 percent of all Americans experience a mental health issue. Now it’s easy to think of this as something like having a psychotic break or a manic episode when you have bipolar disorder, but that’s only a quarter of all the people who experience an issue.

Most of the people who suffer an episode of mental illness suffer from anxiety, various depression issues, addiction, PTSD, phobias and more. These issues are often the most untreated and the ones we don’t like to talk about.

I personally have dealt off and on in my life with a form of depression called dysthymia, a form of mild long-term depression. I’ve been treated with medication off-and-on for this disorder and it’s probably held me back from a lot of success and happiness in my life.

Depression is something I’ve learned to deal with and recognize when it’s starting to be worse than usual and hold me back more, but it’s just part of my life. I don’t make it a major part of my identity and don’t talk about it much because when you tell people you have a mental health issue, it changes the way they see you. It becomes an obstacle to form stronger relationships, being more successful at work, and enjoying your life.

Not because I’m flawed or a bad person to be around, but because people have stigmas attached to what they think someone with a mental health issue is like.

Just like bipolar people aren’t crying one minute and laughing hysterically the next, I’m not a brooding cynic and listen to Morrissey on repeat. I’m pretty jaded and snarky, but I still am a hopeful person who does enjoy life.

But if I told you I live with depression on a pretty regular basis and it largely affects my self-esteem and motivation, you would think I laid in bed all day and hated myself, because that’s what the world has taught you.

Therefore, we need to work to dispel the myths and stereotypes of what the terms mental health and mental illness carry. When people say something is a mental health issue, they either blow it off as an overblown sense of coddling or as a frightening thing we should keep locked away and unspoken.

Countless millions of Americans suffer from these various issues and either never receive the help they need or are punished for being open and honest about the afflictions they suffer.

This Mental Health Awareness Month, we could easily talk about the various places we can receive treatment, but perhaps we should also talk about removing the stigma of mental illness.

The Gayly. May 18, 2018. 2:46 p.m. CST.