Today marks the beginning of Mental Health Week, and to be honest, I've been thinking a lot about how ironic it is that as a writer whose main job is to cover mental health, I've spent the last few weeks not feeling very mentally healthy. Not because of the responsibilities leading up to Mental Health Week, but because not feeling okay and managing that not-okayness is part of my daily reality. And the thing is, most people I know aren't totally okay either. It feels weird to say, because it was only so long ago that I felt isolated with my issues: clinical depression and anxiety, chronic suicidal ideation, a history of self-harm — all things I put a lot of effort into hiding before it was my literal job to talk about it. But now I am surrounded by friends, family, roommates, coworkers, BuzzFeed readers and commenters, and strangers whose essays and blog posts I read daily, all who have their own mental health struggles to share. This is a thing we talk about now, that is normal to talk about now.
So, one of the questions I've asked myself as we put together BuzzFeed's Mental Health Week is: Why are we doing it again, when talking about mental health no longer feels as taboo?
When BuzzFeed launched its first Mental Health Week in 2015, the conversation around mental health had recently begun to shift: Instead of viewing their mental health struggles as shameful secrets, people were slowly growing more and more comfortable admitting they weren't okay, sharing their experiences, and most importantly, seeking professional help.
We've come an incredibly long way from just a few years ago when even talking about mental health outside of the clinical and abstract felt revolutionary. You no longer have to dig into niche websites to find regular mental health coverage. Self-care, mental health days, and therapy are all a comfortable part of our cultural vocabulary. And to be honest, with the way 2017 has been going, it sometimes feels like you're in the minority if you're not struggling with feelings of depression, anxiety, or at least some heavy existential dread.
But even with a widespread acceptance of mental health as something that can — and should — be openly discussed, the stigma is far from gone. Certain disorders and experiences still fall to the wayside because they're less common, less palatable, less relatable, or hey, even less easily packaged into a BuzzFeed list. We're still hungry for accurate, compassionate, and diverse depictions of mental illness in the media. We can still push conversations about depression, anxiety, self-care, and general mental health to be more inclusive, more frequent, more comfortable. And just because we're talking more about mental health treatment doesn't mean it's always easy or accessible. Where mental health is concerned, there will always be more to talk about.
This week, coinciding with Mental Illness Awareness Week, we're publishing a full lineup dedicated to exploring stories of mental health, illness, and treatment, as well as expert-sourced tips that can help anyone feel a little more okay. No matter your relationship with your own mental health, we hope that this week, we can equip you with a few more tools you didn't have before, share a few more stories you hadn't heard — and as always, keep the conversation going.