Imagine you’re younger than 14 and something strange is going on in your head. You don’t know if anyone else experiences it too. Chances are you won’t seek help for another decade, according to research from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Mental health issues develop early: about half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, according to NIMH. Their research also shows that three-quarters of all mental illnesses have begun by age 24.
So, imagine you’re 24. Your brain is fully mature around age 25, according to current consensus among neuroscientists. With different parts of the brain maturing at different times and speeds, mental health is a confusing subject for young adults. They don’t talk about it.
I don’t talk about it.
I’ve dealt with mental health issues since childhood, but they were not diagnosed until my early 20s. They run in my family. When I finally accepted help, college was a safety net for me: there were tons of resources available and people were always around. All of that changed after graduation.
Money became more of an issue. Resources were less visible. Most of my friends moved away. I got a desk job and now spend most of my 9-5 in silence, literally and figuratively.
So then what?
I turned to 7 Cups of Tea. Not actual tea– it’s an app. You sign up anonymously and receive chat support immediately from a peer. The first time I tried it, I got a message from someone in Germany asking what I wanted to talk about. This person was incredibly responsive and genuinely wanted to help. With this type of Tea, I never feel alone. It doesn’t replace in-person professional support, but it’s a close (and cost-free) second.
When that much Tea doesn’t help, Tumblr might. Talking, or typing, is key at this age. Blogging sites like Tumblr make it easier to connect with others. Text posts, quotes, photos, videos– Tumblr has it all. It’s easy to browse Tumblr’s tags and feel less alone in your times of need. I turn to Tumblr during my lunch breaks and late at night to connect with what- and who- makes me feel understood.
Before I can do that, though, I have to understand myself. My solutions? Creative writing and photography. I post prose and photography on a blogging platform. This has led to a resume boost, too: I have been published on several sites and in several magazines. Through all that I realized art saves people: not just the artist, but viewers too.
That being said, art and mindfulness provide a key component to self-empowerment during times of weakness. Whether or not you have a diagnosed mental illness, society’s lack of connection creates unnecessary isolation. Express yourself with words or without them– use whatever works not for you, but with you.
Regardless of how many support systems are out there, emergencies happen. To prepare, I contacted my health insurance provider to see where local providers are. If money is a factor, a simple Google search will do: there are always free resources such as The National Mental Health Hotline (800-273-TALK) or the Kristin Brooks Research Center’s Hopeline. More free resources are located here. Don’t be ashamed to take advantage of them.
No matter where your mind is at, there is help. Our age is crucial for communication. What you’re feeling is real: maybe it’s time to ask for help. Talk it out.