Recently, Kristen Bell very candidly discussed how her notable “bubbly” personality doesn’t change the fact that she deals with anxiety and depression. This is a common affliction which places her in the company of millions of other American adults. What’s not common is that she’s choosing to be open about it.
The stigma of mental health disorders is something that sufferers have fought to eradicate, but unfortunately, it still exists. It permeates a person’s tone of voice when they say things like “you have nothing to feel sad about, just cheer up” or “you sound crazy.” When someone like Kristen Bell who has a platform shares her story, it jumpstarts the conversation, much like HelloGiggles own Sammy Nickalls, who chose last year to help battle the stigma by initiating an important community of discussion with the hashtag #TalkingAboutIt. The hashtag continues to pop up on Twitter thanks to Sammy, as people use it to talk about mental health and connect with each other.
All of this contributes to why I feel it is so important to remember to check in on your friends and family. By her own admission, Kristen Bell says that her cheery exterior can hide a great deal of emotional distress. Combined with the fact that many people go undiagnosed or are unwilling to discuss their mental health, it’s essential that we know there are not necessarily going to be clear-cut warning signs when someone we know is not doing okay. That’s why we need to listen to people and to pay attention. There will be instances when the people closest to us will need help or want it but are afraid or unsure how to ask for it. To that end, I think it can be incredibly helpful to let people know that we are there for them. Even if they don’t want to talk at that moment, they might just need to know that someone cares.
I used to think that checking up on someone made me seem overbearing, or like someone’s worried mom. Having grown up with a mom who was constantly worried about everything and always causing me to roll my eyes at her overprotective nature, I balked at coming across that way to my peers. Then, I dealt with my own depression and anxiety in my mid-twenties. Even though I sought therapy, I hesitated for a long time to confide in anyone close to me, or give any kind of window into the fact that nothing was as “fine” as my facade indicated. I feared judgment, or worse, dismissal in the form of comments like,”Oh, just get over it.” If just one person had noticed that I wasn’t quite feeling like myself, I know I would have felt far less alone.