Mindful Journeys: Have mental health conversations

“Today we’re going to be talking about mental health,” I remember hearing my middle school health teacher say. At the time, my perception of mental health was just a sidebar from what I knew about health. To me, health was just the physical aspect of taking care of yourself such as diet and exercise. I took my notes, aced my test and pushed the information of mental health into the back of my mind. 

Growing up, a few of my friends told me about going on medication and seeing a therapist for their mental health. I was always supportive of them and wanted to make sure they were living their best lives. I couldn’t even tell they were struggling with their mental health. Lending a hand to them and letting them know if they ever needed something they could reach out was all I could do and I could tell they appreciated it. What I didn’t know at the time was how hard it could be to talk to someone about what you’re going through.

When I first started going through my mental health struggles, I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. Besides the fear of being judged for what I was going through, I also didn’t know how to explain it to other people. The brain fog that was blurring my physical feelings was also confusing my thoughts. I remember yelling at my mom at one point this summer when she asked me what I was feeling and all I could say was “I don’t know!” Unless people have been through it themselves, you honestly can’t put it in a way that others could understand. 

Once I figured out what I was going through, there was a part of me that didn’t want to talk to other people about it. I’d never had anxiety this bad my entire life and I had mentally chalked myself up to the friend who was “put together.” When my friends started reaching out to me about how I was doing, I couldn’t lie to them and say that I was doing okay when I wasn’t. Hesitantly, I told them my anxiety had paired with depression and if I wasn’t myself, it was because of that.

Instead of a million questions being thrown my way, my friends and family members, those whom I’d never known had gone through mental health struggles, opened up to me. They told me about their symptoms, how long they’d been dealing with their mental health and what they did to help combat their symptoms. It felt like the biggest breath of fresh air. Knowing other people around me were dealing with similar emotions and struggles I was going through made me realize I wasn’t alone in it all. 

Now, I’m extremely open to having conversations about my mental health and I want to continue having conversations with others about it too. If I can’t find time to talk with someone about how I’m doing, I have an app that sends me an affirmation every hour to keep me calm and remind me I can do tough things. I’m lucky to live in a generation where more and more people are talking about their mental health instead of hiding it. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about our mental health. It should just be like how we talk about hitting the gym or trying out a new, healthy meal we make. You never know, but having that one conversation about how someone’s doing could completely change their life. 

Header photo: Courtesy Emma Johnson

Write to Emma Johnson at

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