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December 7, 2022

Guest View: Things about mental health everyone should know

There’s a lot going on. In the last two years, we’ve endured political upheaval, the fallout of systemic racism, the growing impact of climate change, and genuine loss and collective trauma brought on by the pandemic, which drastically altered our social lives and school experiences. If it feels like there’s a lot going on, it’s because it’s true. Here are four things to keep in mind as we observe World Mental Health Day.

Mental health challenges are incredibly common

If you are struggling with your mental health, you are not alone. The World Health Organization reports that one billion people are living with a mental health condition, including one in seven young people.

In America, the number is even higher. The National Institute of Mental Health has estimated that the prevalence of “any mental disorder” among young people is 49.5 percent. One in two. That’s you or the person next to you.

During the pandemic, the incidence of anxiety and depression worldwide rose 25 percent. So much so that the U.S. Surgeon General has issued an urgent public warning about the youth mental health crisis. The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared “a national emergency.” If you’re having a hard time, it’s no wonder.

Mental health issues are part of being human 

Mental health is health. Your brain is part of your body—an incredibly complex and extraordinary part of you, but part of you nonetheless. There’s an odd perception that mental—as opposed to physical—health is somehow shameful or talking about it should be taboo. But where’s the shame in being sick or having cancer? 

In May 2022, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young opened up to Child Mind Institute as part of their “Dare to Share” campaign. He revealed his long-standing struggle with anxiety and how finally talking about it led to life-changing therapy. “I really do look at it as being lost in the woods when a park ranger comes by. Would you feel ashamed to ask him for directions?” he asked. The same applies to struggles with mental health. If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t go without a cast, he reasoned. “It would be foolish not to ask for help.”

Mental health conditions are treatable

If you have diabetes, insulin is a life-saver. If something is biologically off within the brain, medications are available. Because the brain is so complex, there’s an element of trial and error in finding the treatment that works for you. But for many, medication makes all the difference in the world, enabling them to “feel like themselves” again. Many people wonder why they didn’t ask for help sooner.

If you’re stuck in a pattern of thinking that’s getting you nowhere, remember that thoughts can change. Thoughts are not facts; neither are feelings. Both can be brought in line to support and build up the real, true you.

Some people invest their passion, intelligence and education into learning to help people sort through their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. They are called therapists. Their work is powerful, valuable, even life-saving.

Mental health struggles can be the start of something new

What if the hard things you’re facing—and the ways you are struggling to cope—are not a sign that there’s something “wrong” with you, but that you are worthy of being heard? That deep down, you matter?

What would it look like to let someone in and know you won’t be judged? That you don’t have to carry that burden in secret?

At CASSY, we believe that everyone struggles. But no one should struggle alone. That’s why our therapists are located on school campuses, so children and teens can begin their mental health journeys, while being seen and known right where they are. We all need someone in our corner. 

Remember: You matter. We are here. Our door is open. We’re saving a seat for you.

Marico Sayoc and Amy Gibson wrote this article on behalf of CASSY (Counseling and Support Services for Youth). CASSY provides on-campus, professional mental health services to students and their families free of charge.

A version of this article first appeared in the August/September issue of The Outlook, a publication by the Saratoga Area Senior Coordinating Council (SASCC).

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