20 Reasons We Need to Keep Talking About Mental Health

Celebrating Mental Health Awareness in 2019.

Posted May 21, 2019

ThitareeSarmkasat/GettyImages
Source: ThitareeSarmkasat/GettyImages

Nearly one in five adults in the United States lives with a mental health disorder. Only 44 percent of them receive treatment. According to a 2017 survey, 25 percent of adults with employer-sponsored health insurance and clinically significant behavioral health symptoms named “stigma or society’s attitude toward mental health” as the primary deterrent in seeking help.

In 2019, prevailing stigma around mental illness should not be a barrier to receiving treatment. So how do we end stigma and discrimination once and for all?

One of the most effective methods in combating stigma is talking about it. Another is through education, as discrimination in all its forms is born out of ignorance. Every May, organizations across the country such as National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America, commit to spreading awareness around mental illness, through such efforts. In honor of this year's Mental Health Awareness Month, listed below are 20 powerful quotes, each finely articulating what may be incomprehensible for many: how it feels to live in a mind that is literally out of control. The hope is that as more people open up about their own struggles with mental illness, they will inspire others to do the same, and so on until it becomes so normalized that we will no longer have to use “stigma” and “mental health” in the same sentence:

“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” —Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking

“I just want to say I’m so proud to be a part of a movie that addresses mental health issues. They’re so important. A lot of artists deal with that. And we gotta take care of each other. So if you see somebody that’s hurting, don’t look away. And if you’re hurting, even though it might be hard, try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep and go tell somebody and take them up in your head with you.” —Lady Gaga, 2019 Grammy Awards speech

“I’m a good talker. But I soon learned that you can’t talk someone out of depression. Mental illness is real. And like everything else in life, it operates on a spectrum. Though there are common symptoms, everyone experiences it differently. Yet so many people live in shame, hiding their struggles, not seeking help. We, as a culture, have not fully acknowledged how much help is needed. The only real shame is on us for not being willing to speak openly. For continuing to deny that mental health is related to our overall health. We need to start talking, and we need to start now.” —Oprah Winfrey, Oprah.com

“Sadly, too often, the stigma around mental health prevents people who need help from seeking it. But that simply doesn’t make any sense. Whether an illness affects your heart, your arm or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there shouldn’t be any distinction. We would never tell someone with a broken leg that they should stop wallowing and get it together. We don’t consider taking medication for an ear infection something to be ashamed of. We shouldn’t treat mental health conditions any differently. Instead, we should make it clear that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength—and we should ensure that people can get the treatment they need.” —Michelle Obama, The Huffington Post

“Yeah. I’m on Lexapro, and I’ll never get off of it. I’ve been on it since I was 19, so 11 years. I’m on the lowest dose. I don’t see the point of getting off of it. Whether it’s placebo or not, I don’t want to risk it. And what are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool? A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category [from other illnesses], but I don’t think it is. It should be taken as seriously as anything else. You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there. Why do you need to prove it? If you can treat it, you treat it.” —Amanda Seyfried, Allure.com

“There is such an extreme stigma about mental health issues, and I can’t make heads or tails of why it exists. Anxiety and depression are impervious to accolades or achievements. Anyone can be affected, despite their level of success or their place on the food chain. In fact, there is a good chance you know someone who is struggling with it since nearly 20% of American adults face some form of mental illness in their lifetime. So why aren’t we talking about it?” —Kristen Bell, Motto.com

“I have never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. Never. What’s there to be ashamed of? I went through a really tough time and I am quite proud that I got out of that.” —J. K. Rowling, Time Magazine

“I think it’s really important to take the stigma away from mental health. My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth. I go to the dentist. So why wouldn’t I go to a shrink?” —Kerry Washington, Glamour

“There is so much pain in the world, and most of these people keep theirs secret, rolling through agonizing lives in invisible wheelchairs, dressed in invisible bodycasts.” ―Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

“My dark days made me stronger. Or maybe I already was strong, and they made me prove it.” —Emery Lord, When We Collided

“The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.” ―William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

“It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.” ―Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places

“When you come out of the grips of a depression there is an incredible relief, but not one you feel allowed to celebrate. Instead, the feeling of victory is replaced with anxiety that it will happen again, and with shame and vulnerability when you see how your illness affected your family, your work, everything left untouched while you struggled to survive. We come back to life thinner, paler, weaker … but as survivors. Survivors who don’t get pats on the back from coworkers who congratulate them on making it. Survivors who wake to more work than before because their friends and family are exhausted from helping them fight a battle they may not even understand. I hope to one day see a sea of people all wearing silver ribbons as a sign that they understand the secret battle, and as a celebration of the victories made each day as we individually pull ourselves up out of our foxholes to see our scars heal, and to remember what the sun looks like.” ―Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

“And I know, know for sure, with an absolute certainty, that this is rock bottom, this is what the worst possible thing feels like. It is not some grand, wretched emotional breakdown. It is, in fact, so very mundane … Rock bottom is an inability to cope with the commonplace that is so extreme it makes even the grandest and loveliest things unbearable. … Rock bottom is feeling that the only thing that matters in all of life is the one bad moment. …Rock bottom is everything out of focus. It’s a failure of vision, a failure to see the world how it is, to see the good in what it is, and only to wonder why the hell things look the way they do and not—and not some other way.” ―Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

“People with BPD [borderline personality disorder] are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.” ―Marsha Linehan

“Crazy isn't being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me amplified. If you ever told a lie and enjoyed it. If you ever wished you could be a child forever.” ―Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted

“Mental illness turns people inwards. That's what I reckon. It keeps us forever trapped by the pain of our own minds, in the same way that the pain of a broken leg or a cut thumb will grab your attention, holding it so tightly that your good leg or your good thumb seem to cease to exist.” ―Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall

“Because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.” ―Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

“That’s the stigma, because, unfortunately, we live in a world where if you break your arm, everyone runs over to sign your cast, but if you tell people you’re depressed, everyone runs the other way. That’s the stigma. We are so, so, so accepting of any body part breaking down, other than our brains. And that’s ignorance. That’s pure ignorance. And that ignorance has created a world that doesn’t understand depression, that doesn’t understand mental health.” —Kevin Breel

“Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable. It is also tiresome. People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed. They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you are tedious beyond belief: you are irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and you’re ‘not at all like yourself but will be soon,’ but you know you won’t.” ―Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

To help in the fight against stigma and discrimination, sign up to be a part of The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Stigmafree campaign.

*This post is for educational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional