The Other 364 Days
October 10th was World Mental Health Day. On a global scale, people gave mental health the recognition it deserves. People embraced others as they shared their stories, plastered mental health hashtags all over social media, and showed others that they are not alone. People treated mental health the way it should be treated, bringing experiences into the light and avoiding shaming people into thinking that they somehow brought their mental disorders upon themselves. It is the best day of the year to be a mental health advocate. Of 365 days, it is the one. What happens on the other 364?
I felt the extra love today from the moment I woke up. I felt people paying extra attention to me – people outside of my regular circle. At first, it felt great. People were recognizing mental health without any romanticization, stigmatization, or sensationalism. I didn’t feel judged or shamed. I felt completely safe walking around campus adorned in a shirt that says, “The future is stigma free,” eliciting very few stares in the process. I genuinely didn’t feel anxious at all, a comfortable but fleeting feeling.
Ironically, my Literature and Social Change class is where my anxiety began to set in. We were discussing representation, as we often do. Discussing the lack of representation for mental health reminded me that this one day of unwavering support and awareness for mental health is an anomaly. The other 364 days of the year, those who typically discuss mental health are consistent advocates, and those who typically listen are those who either experience mental health conditions themselves or are already aware of the associated stigma. While one day of the year represents how much progress mental health has made with a worldwide celebration of its prioritization and a day of complete de-stigmatization, the other 364 days represent just how far we still have to go.
With that said, I’m hopeful for what’s to come. I’m watching my friends and family learn more about mental health every day. I’m watching people who I love speak more openly about their own mental health experiences. I’m feeling more seen and more heard. I’m getting more involved in advocacy among some of the closest members of my support system. Three hundred and sixty-four days of the year may feel as safe as October tenth, but I’m hopeful for three hundred and sixty-five stigma-free days in the future.
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