May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which makes this an excellent time to talk more about our beautiful broken brains!
(Ahem. Because I am an honest chap, I feel compelled to stress that we did not plan this in advance. We are not nearly organized enough to do that. It was purely coincidental.)
I’m an advice column junkie. My regs right now are Where Should We Begin?, Dear Prudence, Dear Sugars, Savage Love, Care and Feeding, Captain Awkward, Ask a Manager, My Brother My Brother and Me, and the collective wisdom (?) of r/relationships. Yeah… it’s a problem.
When the subject of mental health arises, I’m perennially dismayed to see a very narrow, circumscribed answer appear again and again and again. It goes something like this:
“Go see a therapist; get counseling; find a psychologist; get into therapy; go see your school’s counselor; go to a mental health clinic; you need to be in therapy; find a support group; have you talked to your therapist; have you tried group therapy; talk to your doctor; therapy, therapy, counseling, therapy…”
And this really bothers me.
It’s not that this advice is bad. It’s not bad! All things being equal, most people would probably benefit from therapy. I have no doubt that the net benefit of professional mental healthcare is incalculably vast.
But it pains me to see therapy described as a one-size-fits-all solution for every person in every situation. I’m someone who experiences intermittent depression. Like half of all mentally ill people in the United States, I’m not currently receiving medical care for it. This doesn’t mean I’m irresponsible or helpless. There are a lot of very understandable reasons why people can’t or won’t seek professional help. Let’s talk about a few of them.