I’m not crazy; you’re crazy

By Gabriel Benson, Copy Editor

A midst sexual assault allegations and rightfully tarnished careers, one phrase I was especially surprised to see trending was “International Men’s Day.” Certainly, the last group of people who should be lauded with praise is men. Looking further, I saw that this was an attempt to promote mental health awareness among men.

One facet of a patriarchal society that hurts men is that relating to mental illness and its treatment. I could give the statistics on mental health and suicide prevalence in men compared to women, but prostrating one statistic to compare to another gives of a disconcerting competitive stench. Instead, let’s just recognize the facts: men are less likely to talk about or seek treatment for a mental illness due to societal standards of “toughness” that must be maintained at all times. Boys don’t cry, right?

With decades of psychological research behind us, we now know that there are lots of ways to be mentally ill for both men and women. In the years that I have been a part of this classification, I’ve begun to notice a caste system forming within a deceivingly open group of individuals.

First, there are the people with anxiety and depression. There’s like a trillion of us, and none of our struggles are easy or fun. The great thing about living with anxiety and depression (even as a man) is that when telling other people with anxiety and depression about my anxiety and depression, they seem relatively accepting and helpful.

Wow! What a great community.

That is unless you’re any more fucked up than that. Anxiety and depression provide a level of fuck-up-edness that I have found to be mostly socially acceptable. Authors such as Matt Haig and Jenny Lawson have written memoirs outlining their struggle with anxiety and depression. These texts were helpful to me as part of a process that involved normalizing mental illness as a part of both my life and the lives of those around me.

Where my takeaway from these texts stopped short, however, was in the normalizing of other mental illnesses as a part of the same community. During the summer of 2016, I worked in the office of Twin Cities company that provided assisted living for mentally challenged adults. Certainly, the residents of these group homes weren’t a part of the same community for which I feel such camaraderie among my fellow depressed and anxious. Certainly, there’s a divide between us. I wasn’t like them. How could I be? I was the office intern!

It is thinking like this that segregates the people living with mental illnesses and isolates mentally ill people whose illnesses are not seen to be as socially acceptable as anxiety and depression. This takes work, patience, and acceptance. To be accepting of people with only depression and anxiety is a disservice to those who suffer from bipolar disorder, anorexia, schizophrenia and many more.

Once the gaps among men and mental illness and different kinds of illnesses are filled, the people with mental illnesses can become more inclusive and more open, and we can hopefully help all mentally ill people feel as if they are a part of a supportive society.

This article first appeared in the Friday, December 1, 2017, Edition of The Echo.