Posted in Shattering Stigmas

“Advocacy Over Awareness” by Taylor Tracy

Hello! I’m not going to take too much time introducing myself. I just want to take this space to encourage you to support NAMI, Trevor Project and other mental health organizations and to call your reps to encourage them to make accessible mental healthcare a part of their larger healthcare policy. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram. Thank you all SO much for supporting Shattering Stigmas!

In many ways, it feels like we’ve come to a crossroads in mental health awareness. similar to the crossroads we face with things like breast cancer “awareness” or “awareness” of various social problems. Being aware of something is insufficient.

I am aware that I am tired and hungry and cranky while writing this post, but this cognitive recognition does nothing to address or solve the actual problem, which is that I need some food, some sleep and some time to properly veg out on the couch.

Being aware of the growing ubiquity of mental health problems is important on a level. Depression and anxiety levels have been skyrocketing in recent decades, although that is probably due to a combination of mental health “awareness” as people more and more recognize the signs of excessive worrying and sadness/hopelessness and environmental factors. We live in a time of crisis. Environmentally. Politically. Economically. Socially.

It’s great that we can talk about these issues more today than ever before. I’m proud of the space that Shattering Stigmas has given people to speak their truth, to have a space to tell their story.

The issue is when you tell people who have opened up about their mental health to “talk to someone” or “get help” like there are accessible mental healthcare resources like there’s a Starbucks, McDonald’s or CVS on every corner.

Simply said, there are not enough mental health resources in this country to help everyone who needs them. Therapy and medications are out of reach geographically, logistically and financially for so many. Including me.

I don’t think people realize how expensive medications and therapy can be even if you have decent insurance. It adds up when you need to be in therapy once a week (not even breaching the topic of how expensive inpatient programs are). Or you might need to try multiple medications before finding something that works, and therefore shell out tons of money for something that might help, but also might not at first.

Even if you can afford it, you still have to get an appointment at understaffed, overworked and underpaid facilities, clinics and doctors. Crisis workers, social workers and clinical psychologists are stretched incredibly thin.

There are not enough seats on the lifeboats and right now, the system at large does not care.

Politicians are too busy blaming people with mental illness for mass shootings instead of passing gun control legislation. Governors and representatives would rather create databases of mentally ill people than initiate programs that would fund the certification of more licensed therapists and crisis workers or force insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies to regulate costs of medication and therapy. Colleges need to devote more funds to counseling resources, which are so overstretched that college students, an extremely vulnerable population in terms of mental health, can frequently get zero to five free visits at best from their colleges while students struggle, especially those who feel alienated and isolated, to acclimate to the tremendous shift in life that college provides while navigating classes, loans and their futures.

Being aware that you are depressed or anxious or have another mental health condition (it’s arguably more difficult with conditions that are even more heavily stigmatized like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and personality disorders) is great and important, but it’s simply not enough. Everyone deserves to be able to access the care that they need in an affordable, accessible and appropriate manner.

We need advocacy in addition to awareness.

We need people to advocate for and with us, to take the step up to contact representatives about making mental healthcare a part of their policies and donating to organizations that fund research and access to mental healthcare. Part of ending the stigma around mental illness is making mental healthcare affordable and accessible for everyone. It means making depression and anxiety screenings a regular part of healthcare from childhood everywhere, which is steadily improving. It means teaching all kids about social and emotional health from an early age as parents and teachers. It means making training for crisis response accessible to more of the population. It means all of us putting in the effort to make navigating emotional health something we all do together all the time instead of expressing empty platitudes like “Talk to someone” or “Get help” or “You can always talk to me.”

We need to stop shaming people for not being able to access mental healthcare. It’s not someone’s fault if they can’t afford or access mental healthcare. It’s not their fault that it’s really hard right now to get help, even if you so badly want and need it. One in four Americans has reported having to decide between mental healthcare and paying for daily necessities. The percentage of Americans with mental illness who are untreated or untreated is higher.

I am one of the people in this country who cannot access or afford proper mental healthcare. That is not my fault. I am doing the best that I can. I know you are, too. So let’s keep fighting—advocating for ourselves and hope for a better future filled with healing.

Author:

Writer, avid reader, blogger, art history nerd, student journalist & editor, bookstore connoisseur, honeybee advocate. Proud Jersey Girl. Drew '17.

2 thoughts on ““Advocacy Over Awareness” by Taylor Tracy

  1. Taylor, this post really hit home. I’m in the same boat as you – I need to see somebody to get help with my mental health but I just can’t afford it. And that is neither of our faults. But everybody seems to think that if we don’t get help it’s simply because we don’t want to and that just isn’t true. Thank you for writing this post and doing such a great job of putting Shattering Stigmas together and making it happen!

    Like

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