“How are you doing?”
It has always been a common greeting, especially between people already familiar with each other. In the past, it was almost a throwaway because you thought the response would never stray from “I’m fine”, “good”, or even “great.”
Today, it’s a surprisingly heavy question. One that frequently elicits deep emotions. You feel your throat tighten, your pulse increase, your body temperature rise, and even some tears well in your eyes. Maybe you hide it with the same responses you’ve always had, or maybe it’s too tough to respond at all.
Life seems harder than it used to be. Certainly, it’s because of the pandemic. No wait, it’s because of the divisive political environment. It’s definitely the annual focus on being better than last year. Or even the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately pressure at work. Nah, it’s the advent of social media. These are all valid reasons to feel generally sad and shitty.
I’d argue that life probably isn’t harder than it used to be, but rather the challenges humans face are changing and intensifying considerably faster than generations past. Mental health diseases have always been a problem, but we are far more aware of these problems now. We used to sweep them under the rug and “tough it out,” but as we destigmatize the issue, we have seen a world open up and share their problems.
Here are the facts, courtesy of Clubhouse International:
- NEW statistics suggest disability and mortality resulting from mental illness around the world may be underestimated by more than a third.
- 1 in 4 people around the world suffers from mental health disorders – more than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
- Mental illness accounts for 20% of the global burden of disease, and only 3% of the world’s healthcare budgets go to mental health needs.
In short, the challenge is for all of us to solve. No one is immune to mental health issues just like nobody's immune to physical health issues. But, as a society – especially globally – we don’t put the same emphasis or focus on it. I remember when a healthcare brand would say “you take better care of your car than you do your body.” We take even less care of our emotional and mental health. That’s fucking crazy. No pun intended.
How should we think about all of this?
As a human, we should think about prioritizing mental health the same way or even more so than our physical health. What’s the point of having a sports car if you’re not capable of safely driving it? As a society, we should think about our role in making mental health an acceptable, hygienic practice. It should be encouraged at all age levels and should be a regular part of our overall wellness routine, like brushing your teeth or bathing. No one is embarrassed to admit they brushed this morning. In fact, it’s embarrassing to admit you haven’t. That’s the level of safe accountability we should feel. As an employer, we should make sure there’s access for everyone. If money moves the world, then it’s up to employers to hold healthcare providers and insurance companies accountable for the gap in care that we currently see across the globe.
I have gone through my own mental health crisis and journey recently. One that I plan to share more about as I get healthier and gain a greater understanding of my path to peace. The one thing I have learned is that I can never ignore this again. Not for my colleagues, not for my friends, not for my family, and, most importantly, not for me.