By Avani Papadopoulos
We’re always asking our family and friends how they feel on a certain day, but do we really recognize the importance of asking “How are you today?” Those words are pretty impactful and can mean a lot to people who are having a stressful day or are going through a difficult period in their life. However, when this question is asked, we don’t really dwell on the answer too much, instead saying, “Oh, I’m fine, thanks for asking.” We don’t bother to say why we are having a good day and avoid saying when we are having a bad day. But why is that?
Well, there are several reasons why we stick to just saying, “I’m fine.” Some of us don’t want to pay attention to our feelings because we think that it will harm us in some way, like somebody will make fun of us. Others may think that our friends and family won’t understand or that we don’t have the time to help them understand how we are feeling. However, if we took that extra minute to explain why we feel the way we do, we would find that addressing and acknowledging those feelings would help our mental health state more than we know. Sharing what we feel proud of that day or what we are happy about allows us to express positive emotions and helps that feeling stick with us throughout the day versus when that joy is kept to ourselves. Similarly, sharing when we don’t feel too good allows us to get any negative feelings out of our system and find possible ways to overcome those feelings and move on with our day.
There are healthy ways to balance your feelings and that is where Bring Change to Mind steps in. Bring Change to Mind, also known as BC2M, is a national student-led club and national organization whose purpose is to spread awareness of mental illness and reduce the stigma surrounding it as well as ignite discussion of how to maintain good mental health. There are over 260 BC2M clubs in 18 states located in cities all around the U.S., primarily functioning in Northern and Southern California, Arizona, Ohio, Indiana, New York City, and several states in the Northeast.
Going back to why some people don’t always say how they are truly feeling is because they feel that there is a stigma around talking about mental health and that it shows weakness. This is one of the reasons why BC2M is here at our school: to reduce that stigma. Discussing mental health is in no way wrong and keeping your feelings to yourself is not a good alternative to what BC2M has to offer. Isolating your feelings will only make them grow stronger and can become too overwhelming for one person to handle all by themselves. BC2M is a safe space to share your thoughts and feelings and find the support you need to speak about mental health as well as share that support with others.
One in four people live with a mental health condition, yet there is so much stigma around mental illness. The best way to reduce stigma is to understand why it is used so much. Stigma can be used to exclude and marginalize people, and the fear caused by it may prevent people from seeking the help they need. There are three types of stigma: public, institutional, and self. Public stigma is the negative attitudes and beliefs of the general public towards persons with mental health challenges; institutional stigma is an organization’s policies or culture of negative attitudes/beliefs; self stigma is when an individual buys into society’s misconceptions of mental illness. We can fight stigma by choosing our words and what we say carefully, spreading awareness of mental illness, sharing stories of people who live with mental illness, and addressing inaccurate media portrayals of mental illness. We can avoid specific phrases like, “He suffers from mental illness,” and instead say, “He lives with mental illness” or is “affected by mental illness.” When somebody is living with a mental illness, don’t use that to define the person. For example, when referring to a person who is living with a specific mental illness say, “She is living with bipolar disorder,” not, “She is bipolar.” The person you are referring to is not a disorder, they are living with that disorder.
BC2M discusses mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, ADHD, PTSD, etc. and how to understand them better, while also acknowledging topics that may negatively affect one’s mental health and well-being like bullying and sexual assault. BC2M also provides many mental health tools that are there to help people during times of distress. For example, BC2M provides instructions on how to make your own essential oils whose properties have been proven to enhance your mood. When going through a rough period of time when your self-esteem isn’t the best, you could also try to make an affirmation mirror where you can write positive things about yourself around a mirror and look at it when you’re feeling down. Not only do you have to make things for yourself, but you can spread the positivity too! You can create an “Open when…” letter, which can provide comfort or support to somebody close to you when they are sad, can’t sleep, etc.
If you’re looking for a place to share your thoughts about mental health and find new ways to expand your knowledge on mental illness and how to maintain your well-being, then BC2M will welcome you with open arms! BC2M meets every Thursday during flex time (12:10-12:50) in the LSS room, 110, or over zoom for people who are virtual. To join, contact one of our BC2M members at UHS or Addy Emkes at firstname.lastname@example.org.