Updated: Nov 1, 2020
By Tunmise Alabi
Image Via Penn State News.
Two people are sitting in a waiting room, waiting to be seen by their therapists. One has visible scars on their arms (person A), and the other is just sitting there, playing solitaire on their phone (person B). Who would you guess is the “most ill” in the room?
Most people would pick the person with physical scars, but why? One possible answer is because there is a visible aspect of their pain. It's human nature to only be considered sick when there is some form of pain that is overt and/or physical, but mental illness isn’t always like that.
Only a few years ago, unless you physically had evidence or “proof” to claim that you were mentally unwell, you were seldom taken seriously. This is because mental illness was considered a taboo subject. Even in some minority groups today, mental illness and other conditions aren’t taken seriously. The racial disparities in mental health treatment are overwhelming. According to Simmons University, only “8.7% of black adults receive treatment for their mental health concerns,” and “88% of Latino youths have unmet mental health needs.”
Pop culture in the US is not helpful either, as shows that dared to take on the taboo subject only depicted screaming at the wall, bouncing off the furniture, and rocking back and forth in a corner. However, the real truth is, someone doesn’t have to look ill to be ill. And that is a concept that is hard to understand when talking about mental illness today.
Now, in comes competitiveness in the mental health community. Due to the fact that people are scared of not being taken seriously with their illness, they are driven to make it look more concerning than the next person. That comes with comparing how hard your illness has been for you to others in a similar position. This competitiveness births toxicity within the community. “Oh you think you got it bad? Try dealing with x amount of suicide attempts.”
We believe having quantifiable proof of our suffering is a sure way to get taken seriously, and thus we strive to have more proof than the next person. Therefore leading to a cycle of competitiveness that is hard to even notice. I challenge you to notice your place in the cycle, and actively aim to tear it down.
Written by writer Tunmise Alabi