One of the greatest struggles of our generation, and what I believe to be most increasingly worrisome, is our mental health. This is particularly daunting because of the complex layers of stigma surrounding it, as well as the complete denial of mental health being a health issue at all. Because of this stigma many teenagers are unable to identify when they are dealing with mental health issues, or feel guilty because of it.
Author Tiffany Madison said it best: “The problem with having problems is that ‘someone’ always has it worse.” We trick ourselves into thinking that we are making up our problems for attention rather than seeking out the help we need. This destructive form of self-denial has been occurring since before people understood what mental health was, but we cannot allow it to continue. We live in a world where answers are available at the touch of a button, and where online resources and support groups are readily available. We need to make the conscience decision as to whether we will be a part of this global change or not.
One of the reasons why mental health has quickly become a global crisis is because of the lack of information and resources available to people. We are a strange people, and easily frightened by what we do not know. Therefore, when we are presented with adolescents with mental health issues, we choose to ignore them for what they really are. Disorders like bulimia and anorexia are seen as ‘teenage problems’, and depression and anxiety disorders are quickly dismissed as having a bad day. We are told that we can choose to think positively, that it is not so hard to put a smile on our face if it will save someone from embarrassment-when the last thing someone with depression should be made to feel is embarrassed. If we want to invest in the future of mental health, firm action must be taken now. According to the World Health Organization, as of 2014 only 1% of the global healthforce worked in mental health. This is particularly shocking when compared to the WHO’s estimate that 10-20% of people experience mental disorders. This may seem like just another statistic to many of you, but as teenagers, if we are not facing a mental health issue, we are close to someone who is.
I want you to close your eyes, and picture you are on a busy street. Temperamental drivers press down on blaring horns, their blinding, primary colors a blur as they whiz past you, when suddenly, they come to a halt. The world seems to stop for a few moments. You spot an opening between two cars and quickly make your way for it, when out of the corner of your eye, you see a boy from school. You are neither friends nor strangers with this person, and not wanting to seem impolite, you hurriedly make out a standard “Hey, how are you?” You glance impatiently at the long line of cars and at the boy again, wondering how long this little interaction will take. You notice the firm line of his lips don’t align with his glazed over eyes. They are firmly set on the pavement beneath you. You wonder if you should ask if he’s okay, but think against it. He finally manages to get out a half-hearted “Fine, thank you”. You cross the street.
I envision a world where “Hey, how are you?” is a question, not a greeting. A place where we don’t answer this question with “Fine, thank you” when we are not, because we are afraid to be a burden on others. I envision a world where we prioritize a night of rest over handing in a school assignment, where we value the development of young minds over the prospective financial stability of our future. I envision a world where we don’t skirt around crying kids in the bathroom or avert our eyes when a teacher yells at a student for a bad grade- when you know they can’t focus on verb conjugations because their parents are divorcing.
Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, wrote in 1906, “About a third of my cases are suffering from no clinically definable neurosis, but from the senselessness and emptiness of their lives. This can be defined as the general neurosis of our generation”. While we have made leaps and bounds in terms of mental health, the fact remains that the general neurosis of Carl Jung’s time remains the neurosis of today. Let’s not make it the neurosis of tomorrow.

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