Society needs to stop ignoring mental illness

Despite its commonality and gravity, mental illness continues to be ignored and glorified.


by Maddy Medina, Print Editor of Photography

She climbs into bed and shuts her eyes, hoping for at least a few hours of sleep. As she waits for her mind to drift into the sweet comfort of sleep, she is reminded of the shadow that is constant even in the dark. She is flooded with doubt, fear, stress, guilt, hatred, anger and helplessness as her heart knocks at her rib cage and she struggles to take in enough air. She tires as her racing mind searches desperately for a finish line she may never find. She loses control of herself as she sinks below the surface and lets the murky water cradle her to a familiar restless sleep. The next morning, she musters up as much strength as she can to pull her heavy body out of bed, put on her mask, and walk out the door to begin yet another day with her loyal shadow trailing behind.

Mental illness is an extremely prominent factor contributing to many people’s daily lives, yet society continues to ignore it. It is time we recognized mental illness, not hid it or glorified it. It is time we faced the bare truth.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20% of children ages 13-18 struggle with a mental illness and 18.5% (43.8 million) of adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness in a given year. Approximately half of the affected population is not given the treatment and services they desperately need due to the lack of availability. As a result, people’s conditions worsen, students drop out of school and many commit suicide.

Services are not readily available due to the stigma and lack of education that exists around the topic of mental illness. We live in an incredibly materialistic society, so when we are presented with such a subject that we cannot concretely grasp, we ignore it or deem it nonexistent. To be cliche, we fear the unknown. Living in such an oblivious society can also lead us to glorify, romanticize and appropriate mental illness, especially through media. When those struggling are consistently left in the dark, the less we truly understand about the suffocating pain they experience and the more is left up to our own assumptions, which often results in mental illness being viewed as a cool trend.

It is necessary that we change the way mental illness is regarded today. We need to recognize that just because something is occurring inside our heads, that does not make it any less real.