Mental Health: Silence Can Be Toxic

Jennifer Whitfield
Jennifer Whitfield shares her first-hand experience with a mental health crisis and pleads for our community to bust the stigma and normalize conversations.

By Jennifer Whitfield, SouthLight Senior Director of Operations

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but my question is this: shouldn’t this be an issue we are concerned with every month and every day?  

The fact is, mental health and wellness is something we need to safeguard, bust stigmas and barriers, and talk about on a daily basis.     

COVID and the lack of availability of routine coping skills that most of us utilized pre-pandemic brought with it the need for more discussion, less shaming and more creative treatment and non-clinical options. 

Yet we see there is so much more work that needs to happen.  In the news we see celebrities, athletes, and young people struggling and some resorting to the ultimate extreme of ending their lives.  Imagine the pain that they must have been feeling to take such a step.   

This kind of excruciating pain does not usually culminate overnight; it starts simmering with all kinds of other struggles like depression, hearing voices, disorganization, anxiety, and more. 

Ending the Silence & Stigma Around Mental Health

Speaking as a survivor of someone who has wanted and attempted to unlive, the stigma was both publicly and self-imposed.   

“I cannot tell people what I am really thinking or feeling!”   

“I’ll let people down.” 

“I’m different or not as good as…”   

The self-talk and messaging that is relayed in our society tell us that it is a weakness to admit you are having difficulty managing emotions.   

The silence that comes from not sharing is toxic and often leads to a pressure building that reinforces the struggle.

Normalizing Conversations About Mental Health

My first sense of relief came from my first admission to another human that I am feeling *** and I want to *** and I have tried *** and seeing that the person with whom I was entrusting my deepest darkest thoughts and feelings listened and did not flinch, did not run away, did not judge.   

In fact, they just shrugged and said “Oh yeah?  I’ve felt that way too before.”  I immediately felt the start of my healing, my recovery, and my path to wellness begin with that unburdening. 

This is why we have a Mental Health Awareness Month, and why it’s so critical to talk about it. To have the issue spotlighted for a period of time reminds us that this is such an important issue each and every day.   

In my personal life and as a director at SouthLight, I’m passionate about reminding folks that they are not alone, and to normalize the conversations, to show that there are others out there (most of us if we are honest) that struggle to take steps to address our mental health wellness.  

And most importantly, to let people know that it’s ok to share and seek support.

Seeking Support for Mental Health

Learn more and get help to address your mental health wellness.