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COCULLO: Mental illness is not the new normal

The Northern View - 8/30/2019

Smallpox. It was an infectious disease caused by a virus. The skin covered in bumps and filled with fluid with a slight hole in the middle. Eventually Edward Jenner pioneered the world's first vaccine and now the disease is virtually non-existent.

Cancer. Diabetes. Heart failure. These diseases, which have currently taken the public eye — we take action on. Immediately.

With mental health it is not the same. It does not get the same kind of close attention it deserves. Perhaps it is because it is an illness that is invisible to the eye. Unlike the pox or cancer there are no definitive marks that it leaves behind, that can identify it as a crisis.

When there is physical evidence of mental health problems such as: Suicide; anorexia; self-harm, they get compartmentalized as separate problems when, in fact they stem from the same root causes: Depression; loneliness; anxiety ; and feelings of worthlessness.

Back to school is here and with it means hundreds of kids will walk through the doors of an institution that is not yet properly equipped to handle mental health.

While some great work is being done to start conversations and raise awareness, there are still many naysayers who deny that self-care and mental illness are a thing.

Kids are told it is time to be adults, get over their problems, that they are just being emotional and over-reacting, or using depression as an excuse to get out of classwork.

A lot of mental health deniers will say that everyone is depressed, it is just how it is. It is as if depression and other mental health issue are being treated like a new social norm. Because it is a behavioral problem, some just blindly accept it as the new normal.

There are many physical diseases that leave behind marks. Almost like we can prove they are real. And we sound the alarms to find a cure. Let's treat mental health that way, and start believing kids and young adults when they say they are suffering instead of treating it like a norm.


Jenna Cocullo

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