It’s Time to Start a National Conversation on Mental Health, Change the Topic, and Not Come Back to it Until We Have To

With mental health issues entering recent headlines– from mental illness as a possible cause for mass violence to celebrities speaking publicly about their experiences– it has become clear that now is the time to begin a national conversation on mental health. Again. Not a very detailed one. Just until we get distracted with other stuff. 

Given that that mental illness is an deeply personal issue for many Americans, yet remains highly stigmatized in our culture, it can be an uncomfortable topic of conversation for all of us. Like seriously, really uncomfortable.

Still, we have no choice now but to begin this dialogue–at least for a couple days until we find something more pleasant to talk about. I’m sure a politician will tweet something inflammatory or some famous people will get divorced before it gets too awkward.

Mental health as a social issue encompasses a range of factors to address, including the role of mental diagnoses in our legal system, the assumed and actual relationships between violence and mental illness, the system of public funding for mental health care, the effects of socioeconomic conditions and workplace environment on mental health, the accessibility of psychological treatment for underserved communities, the moral implications of forced institutionalization, the misuse of medications in psychological treatment, the threat of social and professional discrimination based on mental health history, and the portrayal of mental illness in popular culture and media.

This may seem like a daunting set of tasks, but it’s time that we tackle the first two or three of them, call it a day, and push the rest to an indefinite “To Do” list. After all, we need to leave something to talk about after the next relevant crisis. (And don’t worry–as long as we don’t get very far down the list, we can still keep using “bipolar” and “anorexic” as insults for people we don’t like in the mean time.)

One thing is clear: starting this conversation is of immediate importance. And finishing it is something we’ll probably get around to doing one of these days, maybe when there’s not other stuff going on.

This is also precisely the type of conversation we need to have about race, sexual violence, homelessness, immigration, and a bunch of other things I don’t really care to list. 

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This is satire. I label my satire because satire and actual news are starting to look pretty similar. 

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