We need to stop misconceptions around mental illness


Ironically, people don’t think much about what goes on in their brains. 

When someone hears another person has depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or any number of mental illnesses, the common trend is to assume the person in question is lazy, sad or has wild, inexplicable mood swings.

What “neurotypical” people, and even sometimes those with mental illnesses themselves, don’t realize is that there is a chemical imbalance in their brain. This chemical imbalance doesn’t allow them to feel things “normally” and sometimes requires help. 

While I have never been diagnosed with a mental illness, I know many people with at least one. It’s a lot more common than you’d think, and it’s caused by a lot of different things. Or not even caused by anything at all. Sometimes it just happens.

I have nothing but admiration for those who function in their day-to-day life as best they can, even when their own mind is trying its hardest to make things difficult or impossible. 

More and more people have been talking about mental illnesses and mental health in general and raising awareness of it. Because of this, I think more people are getting help. Reducing the shame around these issues and knowing how common they are has allowed people to seek help for them. 

All too often I hear the word bipolar thrown around, usually in reference to someone acting “crazy” or when their moods switch quickly. I know I have been guilty of this in the past, but I stopped that immediately once I met one of my friends, who has a fairly severe type of bipolar disorder.

I’ve seen her during manic episodes and during times when she’s depressed. She does take medication for it, but it is unbelievably difficult to see her own mind fight against her. I cannot even imagine how difficult it must be to have your own mind try to tear you down from within. 

Many of us don’t realize how important it is to be mentally healthy, which is why Mental Illness Awareness Week is so important. Doing things that harm your mental health, like maintaining relationships that make you feel terrible, affect more aspects of your life than just feeling a little bummed out most of the time. Many people dismiss mental illnesses, something I have noticed a lot in the Midwest, when it is a real issue and affects many people. 

We can reach acceptance over mental health issues and get everyone help who needs it. But to do that we need to talk about it and keep raising awareness.

Kendra Hinton is an English major at SDSU and can be reached at [email protected]