One of the problems with treating mental health in the United States is the weight of the stigmas associated with receiving a diagnosis and treatment. Though our collective understanding of mental health conditions has tremendously improved over the past few generations, there still sadly exists a heavy burden looming that drives many individuals to avoid receiving the help they need.
There is still a substantial amount of work that needs to be done deconstructing these stigmas, but there is still a lot of progress being made. When compared to previous generations, young people are generally more likely to make mental health a priority. This generational change is certainly a net positive outcome for the public, and there are several apparent reasons this is occurring:
Mental health education in public schools is improving.
Believe it or not, there was a time in the United States in which health—of any kind—was not a topic that was taught in school. But as those who design public school curriculums have come to realize, taking care of ourselves is as important as pretty much anything else. Though the specific curriculum a given individual will be exposed to still varies tremendously by school and by region, as a general whole, the amount of health classes the average student will take has been consistently on the rise.
More states require at least some amount of health education than in the past, and even in those states that do not require it, the average number of students taking health classes is still increasing. Furthermore, due to both the increased understanding of mental healthcare issues by educators and the increased demands of the public to find solutions, the portion of these classes emphasized on mental healthcare has also been increasing.
By merely being to exposed to the fact that mental healthcare is important, young people are taking greater initiatives to look out for both themselves and each other.
Young people have more outlets in which mental health issues are being discussed and can be discussed.
Though there are indeed a number of negative effects that result from our contemporary media “dumping”, the tremendous increase in media exposure experienced by young people has had some positive effects too. As social media outlets, television channels, and online resources have all dramatically increased over the past few decades, the number of those who focus on mental healthcare have naturally been increasing as well.
On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and elsewhere, there are a number of places in which individuals can access vital information on mental healthcare in a way they will not feel judged nor stigmatized. Furthermore, many of these outlets also offer young people an opportunity to communicate with others who may be experiencing something similar—this can both alleviate feelings of alienation and further enable them to learn about potential solutions to their problems.
Beyond social media, an increased number of news and traditional media outlets have been discussing mental health issues in a productive, destigmatizing way. Though such issues were traditionally suppressed and rarely talked about a generation ago, seeing them brought to light through major media outlets promotes the general realization of the need for care. Also, seeing celebrities and other important figures talk about the need for mental healthcare reform and experiences of their own has substantially contributed to de-stigmatization.
Public access to mental healthcare is increasing.
Perhaps one of the reasons that mental healthcare has been so suppressed and neglected in previous generations is that when there is no apparent solution, people are rather reluctant to talk about the problem. But as time has gone on, and as we have learned how to better treat both mild and severe psychological conditions, mental healthcare treatment for teens and adults alike has become substantially more accessible.
Now that more clinics have opened their doors—and specifically devoted themselves to providing quality mental healthcare—the topic is one that can be more openly discussed and solutions are something that can be more easily found. As public access to mental healthcare continually increases, receiving such care has become something that can be deemed much more normal, and this has uniquely benefitted teenagers and young people in particular.
Now—more than ever before—teenagers have a substantial ability to access mental healthcare, and they are now more capable of viewing such care as a legitimate option. No longer (at least to some extent) do they feel the need to continually suffer in silence.
The stigmas behind mental healthcare are slowly diminishing.
Though there still remains a lot of destigmatizing that needs to occur before mental healthcare can be correctly viewed to be something as normal as, say, physical therapy, the general attitudes of the public seem to at least be moving in the right direction. This de-stigmatization has been a result of all of the aforementioned trends—increased dialogue, access, and education regarding mental healthcare—and all of these trends seem to continually have a positive influence on the public.
Imagine a world in which any troubled teenager can reach out to their family, friends, and school officials and be productively directed to somewhere they can receive the treatment the need and deserve. Imagine a world in which making the decision to get help and improve your life for the better is not met with ridicule nor bullying, but embraced with positive support and encouragement. Though such a world may still be a great deal away from the status quo, it is—at the very least—a world that exists on the horizon.
There has been an increased public emphasis on “self care”.
Another reason young people have come to particularly take an active interest in mental healthcare is that there has been a general realization that self-care is something that everyone ought to be doing. Though it is indeed the case that not everyone actually needs to go to a professional clinic to improve their mental well-being, it is certainly the case that they need to be making their mental health a priority.
There are a number of things that teenagers—and adults alike—can do to actively be taking care of themselves, and practicing the principle of “self care”:
- Meditating, yoga, and taking a little bit of time each day to reflect
- Finding a productive creative outlet such as music, art, or writing
- Spending time in nature
- Building a network of positive support
- Eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, drinking water, and taking care of our biological needs
- Trying to maintain a positive mental attitude—even in the face of adversity
These are just some of the many things that everyone can try to actively be doing to make themselves better off. Though there isn’t a single formula that will solve everyone’s problems, an increased emphasis in self-care is undeniably a good thing.
Though there still exists a lot of changes that needs to be made to the ways in which the general public views mental healthcare and the ways that individuals are treated, some of these changes are indeed being made, and the entire public is benefitting as a result. Because young people are living in a system that has changed—and will continue to change—as time goes on, they have become more actively engaged in mental healthcare as a generation, and their engagement seems to indeed be a part of the long-term solution.
Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).