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Viewpoint: World Mental Health Day: We’ve got a long way to go.

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Noah Finco

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Karley Betzler, Co-Editor-In-Chief

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Today is World Mental Health Day, a time dedicated to de-stigmatizing mental illnesses and sharing knowledge on how to stay healthy. However, these efforts are still hindered by the trivialization of mental health disorders.

Trivialization appears in phrases such as, “I’m so OCD” and equating getting nervous to anxiety. Trivialization of mental illnesses not only minimizes the experiences of those who currently have them, but may also stigmatizes those who may one day suffer from them.

If you google the words “anxiety disorder”, the images that fill the screen include variations of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, cartoon people being chased by shadows, and lots of nail-biting and head-holding. And while I enjoy works of expressionism art, this has not been my experience.

World Mental Health Day which has brought up lots of discussions about mental illness, like Lady Gaga’s Op-Ed about suicide prevention. Even though 40 million people in the U.S. have anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, I rarely see more internal symptoms discussed.

Despite my family physician telling me that I have an anxiety disorder back when I was 15, I didn’t believe her; I thought I was just overreacting. At the time, I didn’t realize that the latter point was perpetuating a sexist idea that has been used to silence women for years.

In a study published by The Leadership Quarterly, researchers found that, “when people read about either men or women who were described as emotional, they were more likely to view the female targets as overreacting and having less control.” Backlash for uncensored, or only slightly censored, emotional expression is especially prevalent for women of color.

We’ve seen this recently when Serena Williams played Naomi Osaka at the U.S. Open. Williams smashed her racket and called the umpire a thief. She was penalized for this both on the court and off; not only was she fined $17,000, she was also harshly criticized for behaviors that were not as bad as those that some male tennis players have engaged in. Both sexism and ignorance about symptoms allowed me to convince myself to not receive help for years.

In my life, I had not seen what I was experiencing being portrayed as anxiety. The anxiety that I had read about or watched on TV was shown as someone uncontrollably crying, hyperventilating and rocking back and forth on the floor. I had always seen very outward expressions of this mental illness. Meanwhile, my experience with anxiety had been tucked away, hidden and high-functioning.

Anxiety, no matter what symptoms are present, is not pretty or something to be romanticized. It’s messy, painful and exhausting. Much of what I experience is the muscles in my throat tighten and make me feel like I can’t breathe, which is both tiring and scary. Disassociation, nausea, scratching my scalp until my skin bleeds and not being able to concentrate come together to create what my anxiety looks like.

The symptoms that I experience are all very internal and aren’t always seen from an outsider’s perspective. This means that when my anxiety gets really bad or I have an anxiety attack, I may appear a little out of it, quieter, or distracted, but it’s all internal. It’s important to know that there is more than one type of anxiety attack; do not belittle your experience simply because it doesn’t fit the mold of what anxiety “should” look like.

A fear I have is that there are others who are experiencing anxiety, but do not know that they have symptoms or that they can receive help. I’ve received help in the form of the medication I take; this helps my brain release more serotonin and has been life-changing. World Mental Health Day is a time to share experiences, remind each other that we are not alone in our struggles, and use our knowledge about mental illnesses to help others.

To avoid the trivialization of mental illnesses, such as anxiety, there are a few things you can do. You can avoid language that does not treat people who suffer from illnesses with understanding and respect. Also, take time to research mental illness from credible sources such as. And, finally, leave room for yourself to learn more and not

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms I mentioned above, please reach out to your healthcare provider, the Counseling and Testing center in Centennial 2106 or someone you trust. A more comprehensive list of symptoms can be found here. If you have tucked away your struggles with mental health, like I did for many years, give yourself some rest and reach out for help. You deserve help and you’re always worth the effort.

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About the Contributors
Karley Betzler, Co-Editor-in-Chief


Year at UWL: Junior
Hometown: Anoka, Minnesota
Major: Communication Studies with an emphasis in Media Studies
Minors: Criminal Justice and...

Noah Finco, Co-Editor-in-Chief


Year at UWL: Senior
Hometown: Oconomowoc, WI
Major: English Writing and Rhetoric Emphasis
Minor: Information Systems
Other Campus Involvement:...

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