Normalizing Mental Health

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    Sydney Paul

    The Virgin Islands needs to redefine what mental health means to our community. From growing up here, I’ve only really engaged with the notion of mental health when talking about the homeless people on the street who we just assumed had “mental issues”. However, the spectrum of what people go through and struggle with mentally far exceeds those limited extremes. There’s a whole range in between that more people experience that we realize… everyday people…people we know…and that’s okay.

    Fortunately, I grew up in a family where we were encouraged to express ourselves and our emotions–bad or good. I’m curious to know if other Virgin Islands families had the same. From what I’ve observed, our culture doesn’t lend itself to good mental health practices…we bottle a lot of things inside and “just deal with it” alone. People don’t like to share if they’re struggling mentally even though it can be controlled whether through meditation practices or medication or other strategies. I’m not sure if people think seeking therapy or asking for help with their mental health makes them look weak, vulnerable or crazy.

    Caring for your mind should be considered equal to and on par with caring for your body or physical health…no different. Annual visits, more mental health education for all ages, etc. When our community begins to look at mental health as a social imperative and a norm then maybe we’ll get more mental health facilities, programming, education, and resources. It all begins with normalizing mental health and taking away the negative connotation it has in our community. I would love to hear anyone else thought or experience.

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