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Breaking Taboos

“My taboos, your taboos. Why we don’t talk about them, but probably should.”

While living in an evolving and always-changing world, we lose track and tend to forget to speak about important issues at hand. Whether it is about politics, sex, money, illnesses, or body gestures, these are all topics that play a big role in our society. So why do we shy away from these topics? Why is money a taboo? Why is mental illness a taboo?

Society has made it difficult for those suffering from mental health problems to be open about it. Scared of being marginalized, labeled and called “crazy”, it is hard to break the taboos of mental illness and speak openly about this issue.

Mental health is often discussed in the context of adult health care, but it remains a substantial problem for children and adolescents, too. Adolescence can be a risky period for mental health problems. As the WHO reports, up to 20 percent of children and teenagers around the globe experience mental illnesses, and neuropsychiaric conditions are the most common cause of disability in adolescents.

The shift of turning into a teen is one that is full of mixed feelings, it is a vague transition in life. It can feel black and white. Mental health awareness is something much needed in today’s generation. The first step is awareness and understanding of what having a mental illness means. It is proven that mental illnesses cause disturbances in thinking, behavior, energy, or emotion, making it difficult to cope with the ordinary demands of life.

For centuries many illnesses, including mental illness, were viewed as a curse on those who had sinned. It was treated very poorly and unlike many other diseases, the focus was to ostracise them from society, rather than their disorders being treated. Often people with mental illnesses were kept in windowless rooms, chained to their beds, and given little attention or are all together. This taboo originated in ancient times and was not often spoken about, rather it was disregarded and taken care of quietly.

Even after years of technological and medical advancements, scientists know very little about mental illness. After tremendous efforts to uncover the causes and cures, there have been few findings. Scientists still don’t understand what happens in the brains of mentally ill people and which regions of the brain create if it is because of genetic predisposition. And as humans, we tend to fear the unknown, we don’t feel comfortable believing that this is unknown.

The portrayal of mental health problems in the media plays another big role in the way society sees mental illnesses. The media’s portrayal often disseminates negative stereotypes as well as produces inaccurate descriptions. In Hollywood films, for example, mental illnesses are automatically assigned the label “crazy”. This does not close the taboo gap of the people who live with mental illness every day.

I call all of you to break the taboos and encourage one another to take a different look at how we as a society deal with these issues.

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