Photographed by Cassidy Palmateer of Sophie Dehn
By Anna Konen and Jason Mason
It feels as if we are in some sort of transition era. As if we are on the way to the other side of something. There has been a newfound public interest in mental health. Corporate policies highlight it as an employee concern, programs are being implemented for students at universities around the country, and of course, on a personal level, people have begun to take their mental health seriously. Social media is always in a state of testimony and promoting this new mass public interest. But as exciting and beneficial as the concern for mental health may be, the discourse on mental health is still very flawed.
People without doctorates, training, or any other type of formal education inappropriately claim to be experts and provide their opinions on extremely sensitive subjects that call for them amid the endless twitter back and forth. I am afraid that the same thing is happening even outside of social media concerning the different concepts and nuances of psychology, psychiatry, and general mental health matters. Serious and extremely specific psychology terms and diagnoses are inappropriately used in everyday conversation. Many people casually use the term “OCD” to describe tidiness: “My OCD kicked in” or “I’m a little OCD about my room.” Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder means much more. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, says that OCD obsessions are "intrusive and unwanted", and its compulsions are often aimed at preventing anxiety, distress, or even a dreaded and unrealistic situation. Although these triggers are not realistically connected to their solutions, like touching a doorknob three times to avoid nightmares, people struggling with OCD believe that in that moment it is the only thing they can do to solve a future issue.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is just ONE of the many commonly abused psychology terms that is often used lightly or made fun of today. Terms like paranoid, psychotic, and ADHD are all commonly abused psychological terms that people diagnose themselves and others with. These diagnoses are often used as jokes or even insults to make fun and diminish people who may be struggling. Using these mental health issues is harmful because it takes away from people who are struggling with things like ADHD, depression, and anxiety every day.
Although mental health is being talked about much more these days, there is still more that needs to be done by us every single day. Here are a few things you can do to take care of your own mental health and validate others in the feelings and day to day struggles they may be having.
Make Sure You are Following a Routine – this may sound simple but following a routine can help your mental health immensely. By following a similar outline every single day, you will start to expect what comes next and unpredictability will lesson. This will help to ease anxiety and slow down the fast pace of life that often aids in increased stress and depression.
SLEEP -- That is right, something as simple as 8 hours of sleep every single day can help promote your mental (and physical) health. Our bets are that as a college student, it is likely you are not getting enough sleep. Making sleep a priority will help to calm your nerves and slow your brain down.
Talk to Someone – When we are struggling with our mental health, we tend to shut down, close out our friends and want to stay in bed all day every day. However, this is the last thing your mind needs to find solace. Start by simply talking to a friend or professional about the tough times that you have been having. By legitimizing these struggles, you are more likely to get help and feel validated in the emotions you have...Or have not been feeling. Knowing that you are not alone helps to create peace in a way that not much else can.
Validate Your Emotions and Your Friend’s Emotions – Oftentimes when we slip into our darkest moments, we find ourselves suppressing our emotions and being unfair to ourselves. Start validating your emotions by writing down the feelings you are having and listening to what your body needs. It may sound silly but if dancing helps you feel happy, get up and dance. If reading is your escape from reality, pick up a new book every week.
Although mental health is being talked about more each day, we must do our part in legitimizing these disorders and giving them the spotlight, they need. We must continue talking about mental health so we can continue to get ourselves and others the help and resources they need.