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Mental Health and Role Models

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Person meditating on the beach facing the ocean
Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

I think it's excellent that we have people like Matt Haig and Simone Biles who talk about their mental struggles. They provide crucial role models for populations that don't usually tend to speak openly about mental health: men and Black women.


Generally, definitely on my Twitter feed, which consists mainly of progressive, philosophical, touchy-feely author types, talk about struggles with mental health is prevalent, which is, again, generally a good thing.


BUT.


I'm concerned about a situation in which, in order to be deemed "interesting", you have to have some sort of a mental health issue. These things are often invisible, and so you can say whatever you like, really. A bit like the mask exemption that was taken advantage of by people who just didn't feel like wearing a mask. Because who is to say precisely where the line is, or does it even exist, between "I don't feel like wearing a mask" and "I'll be excluded from public spaces if I have to wear a mask because I'll simply avoid it altogether".


I'm aware that this concern I'm raising might put me, to the naked eye, on the same level as a certain famous author who argued that if we don't have better regulations of who gets to call themselves "a woman", then we'll end up doing away with safe spaces for women. I'm not in a million years stepping on that particular hornets' nest because pile-ons are just another way of preventing an honest and open debate about an issue.


What I'm saying isn't "we shouldn't talk about mental health issues". What I'm saying is that perhaps we are at a stage where we can and even must, slowly, tenderly, carefully, courageously, talk about mental health solutions. Because if part of belonging to a group is having a mental health issue, there goes a big part of your incentive to manage that issue. Because our deepest desire, always and forever, is to feel that we belong and are accepted.

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