Here are two things you need to know about me: I’m extremely passionate about depression/suicide awareness and prevention, and I love the United States women’s national soccer team.Last week was World Suicide Prevention Week, a painfully, beautiful week when light is shed on an issue that affects most everyone, whether through personal struggles or a friend of a friend who was lost. It’s an important week to be sure.
But what struck me the most about this week was the number of well-known people using their platforms to shine light into the darkness surrounding mental illness.
As a person who has walked alongside friends struggling with suicidal thoughts, this week means a lot to me.
Mental health is such a stigmatized topic. Too many people see mental illness as a weakness, something to be ashamed of. Some refuse to see mental illness as something similar to a physical illness, like the flu.
But in reality, they are essentially the same. People can’t just choose not to have depression; people can’t just decide to stop having the flu. One isn’t more shameful than the other.
Yet, mental health is still treated as something that a person can just try harder to get over. And it seems that no matter how hard we work against that stigma, nothing ever really changes.
But seeing people use their influential positions to advocate for a changed perception of mental health gives me hope.
The National Institute of Mental Health has estimated that in 2014, 43.6 million Americans have experienced a mental illness. Yet, the total number of Americans affected by mental illness, directly or indirectly, is much higher.
Maybe you’ve never struggled with depression or suicidal thoughts, but I can almost guarantee you have a friend of a friend who has, if not a close friend. And to see someone with a lot of influence stand against the damaging stigma is a beautiful thing.
During the past week, USWNT stars like Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger were getting serious and using their social media accounts to talk about mental health awareness, which is an important step in the right direction. These women are so much more than just soccer players, and that’s refreshing in our current culture.
Morgan posted a photo to Twitter wearing a shirt that said “And So I Kept Living.” Krieger’s Instagram had a video of her wearing the same shirt. Both are supporters of the To Write Love On Her Arms foundation, which provides support and resources for people struggling with depression and suicide.
In a society that holds so much stock in the opinions and actions of professional athletes and celebrities in general, it’s a beautiful thing when they use those platforms to reach out to someone else who might be struggling.