“Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.” – Lemony Snicket
“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close
Why is mental health a taboo subject?
This is a question I ask myself a lot. It makes me sad to see how many people still perceive mental illnesses as a weakness or failure.
Of course, we have made huge progress over the years, but it will still take a good few years before we talk about our mental health openly and without reservations.
After a long time thinking about the answer to the question of ‘Why is mental health still a taboo subject?’, I came up with a few answers.
1. Most of us grew up with the belief that psychologists and psychiatrists were doctors treating unhinged people.
Do you know what I mean? If you had seen a counselor, you were automatically labeled as ‘insane’. This was when mental health was tabooed way more than it is now. But many of us still carry this belief deep inside. Mental illness is not visible and it has been a common opinion that what is not visible, is not real. This often creates a label of ‘abnormality’ of a person.
2. Another problem is that in daily life we talk very little about mental issues, not even with our loved ones. Some people feel ashamed of it, some are worried about not being understood, some simply don’t want to put a burden on their loved ones. Whatever the reason, they all very much relate to the invisibility of mental health issues I described in the previous point.
There has been a great shift during the last few years, but we still have a long journey ahead of it before speaking about mental health becomes our second nature.
3. As for the postnatal mental health issues, the problem is that a new mum is somewhat automatically expected to be happy. The reality is often different, so if the feelings of happiness don’t arrive right away, she feels like a failure. She believes other mothers handle it better than her and this feeling of guilt can gradually lead to depression. It is a vicious circle only honesty and openness can ever break it.
4. And then, there is this domino effect, isn’t it? If no one else around me speaks about it, why should I? One of the deepest desires of all people is to belong. And when there is a ‘danger’ we would not belong by talking openly about mental health, we think twice of it. If you, for instance, struggle as a new mum, but your friend talks about how amazing being a mum is, it is not easy to come out and admit that you actually hate it. Not to mention, that your mummy friend likely doesn’t feel so happy herself either…
And this is where the vicious cycle starts again.
I am really curious about how things will progress over the next few years.
The best thing we can do on this matter is to talk openly about mental health with our children. Remember that children follow our example, not our advice. If we want to break the stigma and for our children to feel safe talking about their mental health, we need to talk about it first.
Giving a good example to our children is the best way to build a future where people talk about mental health with ease and confidence.
What are your thoughts?
Why do you think mental health is still a taboo subject?
Let me know in the comments!