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Illustration by Maria Vogel

Why Is Mental Health So Hard To Understand?

Mental Health issues can prove to be detrimental to one’s life and it’s high time we understand these implications.

Mar 16, 2019

How many times have you heard the phrase “You just don’t get it!” when discussing mental health? Once in your life? Twice in the past year? Every week?
These were the words [Amanda Todd] ( spoke until she took her last breath at the age of 15. In a video posted a month before she took her own life, Todd revealed the sources of her pain and anxiety as well as the panic disorder, self-harm and depression she endured. All of the reasons had one thing in common: they were derived from experiences with inconsiderate, unsympathetic people. Todd was pushed further and further toward the edge with every insensitive remark she heard. Every cruel action she experienced and every time she was turned away, met with confusion or made fun of for expressing the pain she felt broke her down a little bit more.
Unfortunately, [Todd’s situation is not unique] (; people deal with this kind of ignorance all the time. The simplest example is the undermining of mental illness with the misuse of terms, such as a person who has had a bad day claiming that they are “so depressed” due to experiencing one of the many symptoms of depression. We never see someone claiming they have a broken leg just because it was a little sore one day. There are many reasons behind this ignorance about mental health, and there is no question that it needs to end.
Insensitivity surrounding mental health issues can be caused by a lack of awareness, and a lack of awareness oftentimes leads to ignorance. Since not everyone experiences mental health difficulties, and the fact that people have different experiences with mental health can lead to obliviousness and misunderstanding. Someone who is merely having a bad day will not stay in bed for hours desperately searching for a reason to get up or hide in school bathrooms to temporarily alleviate social anxiety.
When it comes to ignorance, major contributing factors include social presumptions and prejudice toward mental illness. From a young age, many people perceive mental illness as a lack of willpower, something leveraged by those seeking attention, or an excuse for irresponsible behavior. Given the perpetuation of these misconceptions about mental health, it makes sense that people’s judgments would be clouded and their desire to understand would be almost non-existent. Lastly, it causes them to fail to see the true definition of mental illness, which is a disease of the mind. It can take over the brain, controlling thoughts, feelings and often changing one’s behavior.
Sometimes, even the person who is suffering can fail to recognize whether someone misunderstands them. They may believe that others don’t understand them, but it can merely be the result of others’ ignorance that leads to insensitive reactions. Moreover, treatment for mental illness can be less concrete and more complicated to understand than the medical treatments for physical maladies. If someone comes down with the common cold, for example, their friend would know to give them some Aspirin and fluids. However, the course of action when someone is suffering from a mental health issue like depression is blurred. Inexperience may lead someone to give no reaction at all, thus seeming inconsiderate, indifferent or even insensitive.
Some may ask why it is important for people to truly understand mental health. The example of Amanda Todd should answer that question. As Todd herself explained, inconsiderate remarks can contribute to the feelings of isolation felt by some people suffering from mental health disorders. Given the potentially grave consequences of mental health disorders, like suicide in the case of Todd, we cannot become complicit in this ignorance. Familiarizing oneself with the symptoms and possible treatments of common mental health disorder can help alleviate some of the ignorance surrounding the subject.
Laila Maged Hashem is a staff writer. Email her at
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