A Discussion on Mental Health
By Marie Rice
Artwork by Xurian Dively
Have you ever felt comfortable opening up to people in the TUJ community about mental health?
Despite having a diverse and accepting community, I have noticed that we still avoid discussing mental health and illnesses, leaving room for the spread of misinformation. It is commonly believed that ignoring or being distracted from mental health problems is enough to make it go away, but untreated mental health issues can negatively impact one’s physical health in the long run.
At TUJ, however, I believe we can overcome our cultural alienation from this topic and become healthier if we simply address the uncomfortable. Regarding the nature of mentally ill people and their portrayal in modern media, I have proposed a few questions based upon my personal experience with these topics, so if you are intrigued, please let me know what your answers are.
Personally, I have been seeking help for mental health for a while, but it has taken me nearly three years in the American healthcare system to be properly diagnosed and treated. Because of both sexism and stigma against mental illnesses in healthcare, I never felt listened to. One psychiatrist said he had diagnosed me as a ‘typical teenage girl’ after speaking with me for less than five minutes.
These sorts of experiences were devastating to me at the time, because it only reinforced the shame I felt. Something I always heard about my condition was that it is just ‘weakness’ or laziness. It’s much easier to blame the faults of my character and my faith than to address underlying problems.
However, does acknowledging the problem mean we are weak? Or is true weakness ignoring the problem to maintain appearances?
It is also not only difficult, but terrifying, to talk about mental health because of how mentally ill people are portrayed in the media.
From news reports to popular culture, mentally ill people are depicted as violent, unhinged, animalistic, and completely apathetic to the grievances of ‘normal’ people. Mental illness is always to blame for tragedy and crime, however, people living with mental disorders are fourteen times more likely to be the victims of violent crime rather than the perpetrators.
I often felt like my safety would be jeopardized if I talked to my coworkers or peers about mental health, so I withheld the truth.
Does this all cause an internalized fear of oneself? Or do we simply fear the unknown aspects of ourselves that we were never taught how to care for?
Thank you for reading Uprizine and let me know if you have any answers to or additional experiences with the questions I posed. While it can be difficult to open up to others about this issue, we can also help our friends by meeting them halfway.
Simply asking ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘Do you need to talk about it?’ can mean everything to someone else. I hope at temple, we can become a healthier and happier community together.
Additionally, if you are in need of professional help, take advantage of the school’s counselling office located on the 6th floor, where you can make appointments with real therapists and find out helpful information for managing mental illness in Tokyo.
Note: This work was featured in the Uprizine Fall 2019 print edition.