The Importance of Normalizing “It’s Okay Not to Be Okay”

By March 19, 2021Addiction, Recovery

Throughout our lives, we may have frequently heard sayings such as “suck it up,” “don’t cry,” “be a man,” or “snap out of it” that tend to minimize an individual’s experience of pain or mental health struggles. However, when someone is in distress, it is crucial to respond with sympathy and compassion. By doing so, we can help normalize that it is okay not to be okay and that asking for help is not a weakness; it is a strength. Reaching out to someone takes a lot of courage, and needing help is nothing out of the ordinary. We are all human, and although our struggles may be different, we all need help from time to time.

People are people first before their mental health or substance use disorder (SUD). Just as they are people first before they develop heart disease or cancer. It is imperative to break the stigma around mental health and addiction, and we can begin to show that living with a mental health issue is not a sign of weakness or equivalent to a downfall. By normalizing that you do not have to be entirely “okay” all the time, we can demonstrate that it’s more than possible to live a happy, fulfilling life, and asking for help can only help them achieve this. 

Focusing on Wellbeing During Challenging Times

Challenging events that happen in society can bring to light many people’s struggles and stressors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period.” They also note that these latest numbers suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. The disruption to daily life due to the pandemic has hit those with a history of mental health issues and substance use disorders (SUDs) hard. It is essential to recognize how challenging events may affect different groups by stepping in and actively promoting and encouraging those who need help that it is okay to need help if they are struggling. Hard times can often unearth many problems people have been living with. It is essential to provide care to those who need it and increase public awareness about the risk of drug and alcohol misuse and the importance of mental health well-being. 

Reasons Why Asking For Help Is “Okay”

  • No one is alone in needing help for a mental health problem. It’s okay not to be okay. It is a part of being human, and we all experience difficulties.
  • Our negative thoughts can often be untrustworthy as we can have a bias and tendency to think negatively about ourselves and our lives. This can affect our mental health when we get stuck in this pattern—believing them to be true because we think them to be true.
  • When living with a mental health disorder or a SUD, it can feel as though emotions and difficult situations are permanent. It can feel as though things will never get better. However, this is not the case. Therapies such as cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can help individuals who feel stuck in this pattern of thinking. 
  • Asking for help is sometimes the strongest thing one can do. Although admitting you need help can seem like a weakness, it takes a lot of courage and strength to do so, and this should be acknowledged by the individual you reach out to. It indicates that you want to get better and that you want to take action to feel better. 

Finding the Right Words

For those who are mental health and substance abuse professionals, you are often the ones people turn to for insight, healing, and encouraging words. This is why it is essential to express that “not being okay” is completely “okay.” Saying the right thing to someone living with a mental illness or a SUD can be incredibly powerful. Your words can offer support and comfort and potentially be life-saving. The problem is finding the right words. Sometimes even the most eloquent and well-practiced professionals may find themselves at a loss for words. The appropriate verbiage may sometimes seem to escape your thoughts when the pressure to say just the right things to someone in pain is overbearing. When this is the case, lead with compassion and empathy in order to avoid stigmatization and to normalize that ultimately, “it’s okay not to be okay.”

Those who live with a mental illness or a SUD may be all too aware of certain invalidating responses they may have received when asking for help. This can be a significant deterrent in receiving care and treatment. Therefore, it is crucial for those in the mental health and substance abuse fields to recognize the weight that their words carry. Showing compassion and respect for those who need help can often be just the thing they need to get better, recover, or even save their lives. This is why it is crucial to normalize “it’s okay not to be okay.” When people realize this, they may feel less alone and more willing to reach out. At Alta Centers, we are actively focusing on changing the stigma around mental health issues and SUDs while encouraging that seeking help can be the first step towards recovery and the promise of getting better. Call us at (888) 202-2583.

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