BY ALEXA ERICKSON - Shape
While stress, depression, and anxiety are increasingly part of everyday conversation, there's still some stigma around mental health conditions. And reluctance to talk about these issues extends beyond the U.S. borders.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka William and Kate) and other members of the royal family have continued to speak out about the importance of mental health resources and education. Most recently, Prince William, along with Princess Kate and Prince Harry, visited the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London to speak candidly to the press about why mental health is such a passion project. They lay out the vision for the Heads Together campaign, which was launched in an effort to promote more conversations about mental health. Their message was clear: Speak up. There is no need to struggle in silence.
"The challenge that so many people have is not knowing how to take that first step of reaching out to another person for help," said the duchess. "Fear, or reticence, or a sense of not wanting to burden another, means that people suffer in silence—allowing the problem to grow larger and larger unchecked."
The duchess went on to say how an advocate can play an important role for someone who is suffering. "Just last week ... I heard from one mother how talking to a support worker was—in her words—like medicine. Simply by having someone there to have a conversation with helped her immensely."
The stage is set for 2017 to be a year that continues to break boundaries in the field, said Prince William. "We believe that 2017 can mark a tipping point for mental health—a moment when more and more people no longer feel they have to bear the weight alone for fear of judgment," he said. "It is no exaggeration to say that conversations can be life-changing: in a workplace, in your kitchen at home, with a friend, family member or colleague."
And Prince Harry? He reiterated his brother's sentiment that times are changing, and for the better. "In the past, the phrase 'mental health' would be translated to mental illness, but thankfully that is changing," he said.
The royal family's message comes at a pivotal time in the U.S., where the Affordable Care Act is likely to be abolished. In fact, the very same day William, Kate, and Harry spoke about the positive things to come surrounding mental health, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a study revealing that cutting out key portions of the Affordable Care Act may cost 18 million people their health insurance in the first year alone. Millions of people may lose access to vital services such as cognitive behavioral therapy and depression screenings, as well as prescriptions for antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, not to mention access to physicians with the ability to diagnose and treat conditions such as bipolar disorder.
While it can be easy to be discouraged by the political events that directly impact your health, the royal family had it right when they said that being vocal when you need help is the first step to healing. And that's something no one can take away from you.