What is the very first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words ‘Mental Illness’? Is it something along the lines of a crazy person in a straight-jacket? Or a simple college student?

Depending on your generation, I’m sure it means something wildly different. Now, I understand that one shouldn’t generalize an entire generation, but in this instance, it makes the most sense: older generations created the stigma of mental illness.

According to an article on psychologytoday.com, in a survey of 18,743 people, 62% of millennials ranked mental health issues as a major concern, compared to only 31% of Boomers.

Most college freshman now are considered Generation Z, or iGen. According to another survey on apa.org, Gen Z is the least likely generation to report their mental health as very good or excellent.

Trust me, I know that older generations consistently make comments about how we are “crybabies” who can’t handle the real world. Even my parents’ generation is full of haters on mental illness, but they created the stigma. They started the issue and continue to deny it’s created any problems. If our adults, the people who were supposed to be our advocates, deny this very clear issue, it falls on us to fix it and to do better for future generations.

The truth of the matter is that there has always been an issue with mental illness, our society just doesn’t like acknowledging it. More and more frequently, doctors are finding out that there are physical symptoms of these mental illnesses.

Personally, I have struggled with an anxiety disorder the majority of my life. This has caused physical symptoms that have made it hard to live day-to-day, and yet I felt like I could never say anything because it was “all in my head” and I could easily “get over it.” When I finally started going to therapy and was told I wasn’t crazy, I cried with relief. I full on sobbed.

Our generation is trying to break the stigma. Created by those ahead of us, mental illness is not someone in a straight-jacket: It’s the person sitting next to you in your biology lab. So, help out your friends and stand up when someone tries to continue the stigma.

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