I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know everything about mental health, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an inspirational or motivational quote that was any more than a few words in length. And yet, mental illness can’t be reduced to a few words, and far more often than not, it’s not cute or clever.
In the US, one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year, and there’s a big difference between “feeling” unwell and actually being unwell. And it’s that difference that’s lost in our reliance on the inspirational quote. There’s a fine line between mental health being used as a marketing ploy and actually educating and informing.
In recent years, we’ve started to move away from our love affair with “inspirational” quotes, and more and more celebrities are using their influence to bring mental health issues out of the shadows. One of the most touching examples of this came from Lady Gaga, who recently opened up about her struggles with PTSD, sharing how she coped with the disorder:
“I wish to help raise awareness for my fellow sufferers of PTSD and the struggles they may endure,” she said. “I am hopeful we can bring much needed attention to the matter.”
The quote was brief, but it was honest. And, crucially, it was real.
As more celebrities use their voice to speak out about their own struggles with mental illness, I’m hopeful that we will be able to move away from the fake and superficial quotes that only serve to perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental health. It’s time to get real, and I’m hopeful that 2018 will be the year we do that.
Real experience is the key to breaking down the stigma around mental health. But it’s also the key to building empathy and understanding.
After all, if we can stop seeing mental health as a marketing ploy, we can start seeing it as something real. And if we can do that, we can start to change our culture and stop seeing mental illness as something to be ashamed of. And that’s what we need more than anything right now.
We need to be honest, we need to be open, and we need to be real. And if we can do that, we can create a world where mental health is seen as a true and honest experience, not something that can be reduced to a few words, however inspirational they may be.