When talking about our mental health, there is one simple phrase that is extremely important for our entire human population to know.
Six words that should not only be spread by word of mouth, but plastered on billboards everywhere.
“It’s okay to not be okay.”
The small phrase has a lot of meaning behind it. Just because you are not doing well doesn’t mean you have to act like everything is fine, because it is wrong to not feel good mentally.
Admitting that something is wrong is always the first step in fixing whatever the issue is. This is not just the case with just mental health, but with everything in life.
The phrase has become more commonly known over the last few years because not only are people prioritizing the importance of mental health, but trying to get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health in general — the stigma being that it is better to just bottle up emotions or feelings you are having, rather than talking to someone about them.
This is not true.
Talking to someone about anything will always make you feel better, no matter what it is about.
Part of the stigma is that it is uncomfortable for people to admit they are not okay, and it may be hard for them to confide in somebody that they just do not feel like themselves. This is something that not only needs to change in our society, but needs to become a norm.
A norm that admitting to yourself or anyone, “I’m not doing well” is okay, a part of life, and most of all, a step in the right direction.
A lot of times when people realize that they are not okay is when they should stop to take a step back. They realize that they are going through the motions of their everyday life, or they just feel off.
This is exactly when the phrase, “It’s okay to not be okay,” comes into effect.
In recent memory, one of the ways our society has become familiar with what it looks like to admit that prioritizing mental health is important has been athletes using their platforms.
In 2018, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love came forward publicly speaking about his own mental health. Love told the public that he had been seeing a therapist for months after having a panic attack during a game in 2017.
Similarly, Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner came forward around the same time, opening up about his own mental health. Lehner had struggled with suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol addictions, and was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder with manic phases.
The bipolar diagnosis came after Lehner, like Love, had a panic attack during a game in March of 2018.
There are many other cases of professional athletes using their platform to discuss mental health. We look at these athletes as larger-than-life figures, but for them, to bring the public’s attention to prioritizing mental health, shows that we are all human.
One of the biggest moments of an athlete coming forward about their mental health was recently in the summer of 2021.
This past summer when the Olympics were held in Tokyo after being postponed a year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, one of the big storylines was Simone Biles.
The United States Gymnast who competed in her second Olympic games and is only 24 years old, made a statement to the whole world.
After putting on Instagram that she had been “feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders” from the Olympics, she withdrew from team competition because of her mental health.
“I say put mental health first. Because if you don’t, then you’re not going to enjoy your sport and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to. So it’s OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are — rather than just battle through it,” Biles said via NPR.
On the world stage, Biles made a strong statement about the importance of mental health by prioritizing her own. The backlash she was surrounded with after her decision of people calling her a lot of disgusting things, but the main one was “quitter.”
Although mental health is talked about a lot more in today’s society some people are still ignorant to it.
While Simone Biles’ decision was talked about around the globe, one day at the surf camp I work at in the summer a couple of kids were talking about it.
“Simone Biles is a quitter,” a girl said.
“My parents told me Simone Biles didn’t quit, she’s just sick,” another little girl argued.
Now, I understand that parents probably don’t want their kids taking opinions from their 21-year-old surf instructor — but in that instance, I had to step in.
“She’s not sick, she didn’t quit, she needed to take a mental break from the stress of competition,” I said.
What Biles did is not only courageous, but to admit to the entire world watching that she is not okay is incredible.
The best thing to do to destroy this stigma that asking for help is “embarrassing” or uncomfortable is to keep spreading the small but important phrase.
“It’s okay, to not be okay.”
We’re all human. Give yourself a break. Spread that phrase; someone who has not heard it may need to more than ever.
Photo: Gillian Dube/The Student