TWDS: Self-Expression and Mental Health

By: Jacqueline Carmody

Things We Don't Say is a series focused on exploring the complex facets of mental health and the obstacles to effective suicide prevention. This week, we explore the connection between self-expression and mental health.

We grow up with little to no education on how to address our mental health, and these conversations don't get easier as we age, because dialogue is often hindered by stigma. Stigma are the social and cultural factors that try to dictate how we express ourselves. Stigma is visible in the Things We Don’t Say about mental health. The key to dispelling stigma and taking care of our mental health is embracing self-expression. 

But what is self-expression? 

Beyond artistic creation, we aren’t always aware we are utilizing self-expression. Self-expression is communicating our emotional and psychological experiences, verbally and through actions. There is both healthy and unhealthy self-expression. Anger, for example, can be expressed through healthy outlets and destructive methods.

Why is mental health connected to self-expression?

Self-expression can be done privately and publicly. Often we don’t realize how much our self-expression is impacted by stigma. When someone stubs their toe and screams they are expressing physical pain. When someone experiences a psychological injury how is that communicated? 

Caring for your mental health means embracing healthy self-expression. Consider the mind like a bottle of soda. Experiences from all aspects of life shake the bottle and build pressure. Self-expression is relieving the pressure without exploding. Some things we cope with as individuals or with support from our peers. Other issues require trained professional guidance.

We must recognize there are tools to address our mental health. You do not have to suffer in silence, you’re not alone. We need to embrace open communication of mental health challenges and be able to provide direction to help others before crisis arises.

Effective suicide prevention starts with a conversation on our mental health and we begin by understanding, It’s Ok Not To Be Ok.