Hollow Shells

The average human brain weighs about 3 pounds; in North America, the average human weighs around 180 pounds.

Take a moment to consider that an organ that makes up less than 2% of your body’s mass has control over absolutely everything. Those trillions of neural connections communicating with each other that allows the human mind to create what we perceive as consciousness — modern science has yet to explain it. Even with decades of research and modern medicine, it’s the most mysterious thing that we know exists.

However, even if we don’t know why or how the brain does what it does, we are able to witness the what that it does.

From regulating body temperature to forming the sentences I then type on this blog, it’s capable of so much. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but the reason behind our species’ success story is what’s protected by our skulls. Yet, it’s flawed in so many ways. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, the United States’ leading cause of disability is mental illness (2015).

Depression. Anxiety. Mental Health. Getting help.

We see these words nearly everywhere we go nowadays.

As mental illnesses slowly reach the same level of importance as physical ones in the U.S., the topic has blown up all over the country. Not only is it detrimental to the person, but it’s also a major issue for nearly all industries. Low moods and high anxiety can decrease work performance, and when you have 43+ million adults suffering on the inside, the tolls start to rack up.

One issue that today’s society faces is too much “awareness” that comes in the forms of [blank] months, [blank] weeks and [blank] days. It’s the equivalent of seeing a bomb in the middle of the room, but nobody’s willing to go over there and touch it. Everyone knows it’s there, but who’s willing to bring it up?

Although it’s a bit of a far-fetched analogy, that’s essentially what awareness does. If there’s no push to action, no permanent change being made in the community, then there’s no use. You can almost apply the bystander effect to this kind of scenario. Instead of a crime being witnessed, it’s a topic that’s being avoided. Nobody wants to be the first to bring it up.

We can all acknowledge that cancer and HIV are both horrible medical issues that need a cure, but imagine if that’s all that people ever said. Imagine if that’s all that people ever did, was acknowledge. There are miles of published articles in magazines that give you step by step instructions on how to lose weight, get in better shape and look sexier.

But, I rarely ever see anything on how to liberate yourself from stress, form deeper connections and be stronger mentally. Famous examples such as Robin Williams and Kurt Cobain prove that nobody’s immune, not even the most lavish of lifestyles can protect you from mental illness.

A word wall at the Guggenheim Architecture museum in New York.

This week, Humans of New York posted this short quote from a man with no face:

My brother shot himself last November. He always viewed himself as my superior. He’d never come to my door when he visited. He’d always wait in the car for me to come out. He had more money, more lovers, more everything. But he was always searching for more. He was never satisfied. My brother was a character. He was a successful character, but he was a character. And that character ended up eating him.

Today, we’re more concerned about appearances than we are with what’s on the inside, even though the phrase “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” is thrown around all the time. At any given moment, one of us could be suffering an indefinite amount and still feel the need to put up a front to the world, especially one that looks good. In this man’s brother’s case, that front he kept building up eventually crashed down on him, taking his life with it.

Stability is not an option, it’s a job requirement.

The job? The job is having the approval of everyone around you.

Our Facebook Timelines, Instagram and Twitter feeds, they’re basically a resumé to all of your friends and followers. In order to get this job, we’re always hunting for another way to one-up everyone else. It’s 2010’s version of “keeping up with the Joneses”, that it’s no longer only what you have, it’s also what you do. We brag, we tell stories.

And that’s where the stigma comes from. It’s not necessarily always the case that people see individuals with a mental illness as being weak or attention-seeking, but rather that there’s such a pressure to always talk about how you are better on some level than everyone else. And when you have nothing, you can’t get anything out of your mouth.

If you’re seeking to bring up the topic more often, be more cautious towards people with mental illnesses. It might just be the case that they’re anxious about bringing it up, and forcing such a sensitive topic only makes it more difficult to speak out. As I stated that topics of happiness only drives the conversation in that direction, perhaps speak about the negatives in your life. That, in turn, may then spur conversation and eliminates the fear of being that guy.

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