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Words by VLB

World Mental Health Day

"In the reckless, gritty chaos of things - you are loved, you are seen." -MHN

The more people's stories I hear, the more I believe we're all fighting our own battle. No one is exempt from the war. I've been wanting to write about mental health for a while now, and World Mental Health Day feels like the right time. So, even as the Texas thunderstorm after a long week begs my tired self to snuggle in bed with Netflix - I know I need to say something about this sacred, overlooked thing we call mental health.

I found out about World Mental Health Day via social media (which I believe has a huge effect on our mental health, but that's another convo for another day), specifically on Instagram stories. Amidst a sea of encouragement, I was struck by one particular statement:

"1 in 5 people have mental illness. 5 in 5 people have mental health. Mental health matters for everyone."

Whether or not we are clinically diagnosed, the condition of our minds is delicate and important. You can be nervous without generalized anxiety, or weepy without diagnosed depression. Every single person will fight their battle at some point. This day is for all of us.

In a culture that often associates mental health with the extremities of medicine and counseling (which, for the record, I believe are valid and helpful resources, both of which have greatly impacted my quality of life), I want someone to hear that: your mental health matters even if you don't deal with mental illness.

I believe it is in the best interest of every person on earth to pursue health and wholeness in all areas of their lives, including inside their minds. In my opinion, mental health should be our goal, regardless of past or present labels/moods/seasons.

Your every feeling is purposeful, and I'm sorry if others have made you feel otherwise. Your emotions may not always be pretty and peaceful and that is OKAY.

The wise choice is to acknowledge the suffering and work through it, instead of stuffing it down and pretending life is perfect (which, I've been very guilty of doing). Different seasons of life may be characterized by different emotional states, but we need to dark moments to appreciate true light.

Mental health matters for all of us. It shouldn't take an international observance day or a tragedy for you to check in with yourself. My challenge to you is to make mental health a priority even when you feel "okay." Find the joys of life that bring you back to health and build these things into your routine.

For me, I stay mentally healthy by reading the Bible, running, putting away my phone before bed, journaling, getting enough sleep, getting outside, and listening to music. God has given us so many gifts and tools to pursue a healthy mind - please find the things that work for you and utilize them. Don't wait for things to go dark before you take care of yourself.

Finally, I think our most important resource and responsibility when it comes to mental health is each other. I'm so grateful for the way social media is speaking about mental health, but we need to have those vulnerable conversations in person, too. If you notice something may be off about a friend, check in on them. If a friend makes note of your behavior, hear them out. As uncomfortable as it may feel, we need to have these conversations with one another. We need to normalize discussion about the hard parts of life, not just our celebrations and milestones. And, the more you practice speaking about your mental health, the more natural it will feel. Let's talk about it, not just post about it.

I hope that World Mental Health Day reminded you to check in with yourself, take care of your people, and ask for help. Mental health is too critical to be overlooked.

Reach out to someone you love and tell them what they mean to you. Check up on your friend who appears to have it all together. Share your struggle with a safe person. Mental health matters for everyone - for college students and children and celebrities and parents and pastors - so let's take it seriously.

You are loved. You are seen. Even in the reckless, gritty chaos.

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