The Mental Health Mistake Our Generation Is Making
There’s a Middle Path to Mental Health. It lies somewhere between how our parents’ generation dealt with it and how we’re dealing with it today.
The Old Path: Push it Away
The old way of dealing with mental illness was to push it away.
Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t seek help. You don’t want to seem weak. Grin and bear it. Keep moving forward. If you did hear about it, it was in hushed tones in back rooms. Never in the light of day. We had cute words for it like melancholy and ‘the blues’.
And this served some utility. Look, life is hard. The world is a difficult place. And that was more true the further you step back into history. We also didn’t understand what mental health issues were, what caused them or how to treat them. So, there really wasn’t anything to do but soldier on if you were leveled by, say, depression.
The positive side of that was that people were able to still live meaningful lives. They continued going to work. They raised families. They accomplished great things, like Abraham Lincoln preserving the Union and freeing the slaves while being unable to get out of bed some days.
But that pain they repressed sometimes snuck out in other ways, like squeezing a half-full water balloon. People drank too much. They beat their wives and kids. They fought wars against their neighbors.
Any time you repress something, when you push it away, when you oppose it with force, it just finds another way to come out. And under enough pressure, it erupts. That’s the downside of the old way of dealing with mental health.
The New Path: Hold on to it
We’ve undergone a radical shift in the way we view mental health, especially in the last twenty years or so. Our watchword seems to be “reduce the stigma” which is a positive and admirable thing to do.
Most of this is driven by our improved understanding and ability to treat mental health problems. We understand the brain better. We understand biology better. We understand environmental factors. We have interventions that…