Why MHNR Will Always Stand by “Mental Health”
What’s wrong with the words “mental health,” you ask? Not a thing! Then why, we wondered, were the folks at Mental Health News Radio coming up against roadblock upon roadblock in regard to the name of our show? It’s true, the phrasing and the connotations of “mental health” have some long held—though undeserved—stigmas attached to them. We get it. But that’s precisely why we refuse to rebrand around it. We tackle this beast (that somehow mental health is any less deserving or crucial to one’s psyche and physicality than brain health, bone health, or overall physical health) every. single. day.
To be sure, this blog’s purpose isn’t to simply call out the many—be they guests, behavioral health experts, or other well-meaning people—who in some capacity cringed at the message we might be sending by naming our podcast “Mental Health News Radio.” Though it’s an important point to note. Instead, we choose to use it a call to arms to the precise cause we’re all fighting so hard for—to eradicate any stigma that might still exist about caring for your mental health.
So here, in some bit of explanation, is what we (a few of the good people and friends that make up Mental Health News Radio Network) have to say about what it means to be #Mentalhealthified.
What it means to be #Mentalhealthified
“Why am I drawn to, not from, the words ‘mental health’?” asks Kristin Walker, CEO of everythingEHR and host of Mental Health News Radio Network. “Because it’s empowering. Our message is for everyone: Let’s do the work to get #mentalhealthified! Let’s be positive about our mental health, especially since it governs every other aspect of your health.”
Taking control of your mental health means that you have an awareness of who you are in your relationship to your inner-psyche as well as the world around you, says Matthew Cullipher, President and Founder of The People Project .
According to Melanie Vann, behavioral health expert and MHNR cohost, being #mentalhealthified is about really feeling mental health on an emotional level rather than memorizing its textbook definition. “It’s to be educated in the mental health of myself and others and to then apply this knowledge to my everyday experience as a human who experiences ‘mental health,” she says. “Because we all experience ‘mental health.’”
To put it in practical terms, Vann says it means she practices self-awareness while staying aware of others’ realities by exercising empathy. Though she’s constantly learning, compassion always follows “when I communicate with others and seek to understand each person’s experience with their own mental health.
“I have an acute awareness of my own mental health and self-care and share this with people I trust,” she says. “When you’re #mentalhealthified, you see a person—not his or her struggle with their mental health.”
It’s not about perfection, says MNHR Technology Assistant, Emily Parker, but purposeful choices. “Being #mentalhealthified has to be a conscious decision that no matter how hard things get, you are making a choice to react with good mental health as much as possible,” she says, adding that a little levity can help. “Try to remember to laugh at yourself. It shows that your mind and perspective are flexible and healthy, so decisions will yield greater and more positive results.”
The splintering effects of mental health
Whether that “splintering” sees positive or negative effects is dependent on any one person’s relationship with their mental health (or lack thereof). But make no mistake, we all see its innumerable effects either way.
“I have seen mental health kill, and I have seen mental health heal,” says Vann.
For Cullipher, those effects have been mainly positive, as knowing more about mental health has provided understanding, options, and guidance. “The more I know about myself and about others, the more liberty I have,” he explains. “When you suffer in silence, it is impossible to really understand what you are going through and how it’s the farthest thing from a novel experience. We all think we’re the only one, until we hear others’ stories.”
Vann finds it helpful to envision mental health on a continuum. “Positively, mental health represents caring for others’ internal well being. It’s our soul care. I have seen the power of self-care and dedication to one’s mental health both personally and in others. Yet I have also seen the opposite: the deterioration or neglect of mental health leading to immobilization, erratic actions, or substance abuse.”
It’s not about labels but the work that goes into keeping a spirit healthy, says Vann. “Someone with a chronic mental illness can have healthier mental health practices than someone who ignores their mental health because they have no formal diagnosis,” she explains, noting that all human beings are “flawed” in some way.
But isn’t that where the beauty lies? An endlessly fascinating subject, many of the people behind Mental Health News Radio see the intricacies of emotions and the countless intersections of mental health with other areas of health as a constant intrigue. And it’s a study of books—as well as each person’s journey through mental health themselves—that brings them here.
As for Parker, she prefers to think of mental health as a muscle, one that you need to work out to stay mentally “fit” for the variety of challenges in life. “I’ve endured many challenges concerning my own and others’ mental health,” she says. “Some things in life truly are ‘the only way out is through’ even if you don’t always know what’s on the other side.”
Now and forever MHNR
So will we ever deviate from our beloved Mental Health News Radio name? In short, no. Not because we’re unwilling to change but because our cause is too significant to leave stranded.
“It’s far too important and accurate,” says Cullipher.
If any agenda is pushed on MHNR, it’s that of acceptance—something that’s much-needed in mental health care to this day. “We will never start to tear away at mental health stigma if we are afraid to say the words mental health,” says Vann. “We must embrace our mental health and stop shaming others for our mental health struggles. That means living in the truth of the impact mental health has on all of our lives. If we water down mental health (or even dress it up so it’s less ‘stigmatizing,’) then aren’t we feeding into that very stigma?”
Parker agrees, noting that the stigma surrounding mental health just shows there’s still work to do be done in overcoming those barriers. Now is not the time to turn away, says Parker. “MHNR has an edge and is a stigma crusher,” she says. “In my dealings with child sexual abuse, working with Darkness to Light and the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, I saw that it was somebody’s job to not turn away and to find the courage to hear and value the stories and lives of those harmed.”
After all, “Our mental health is real, it’s beautiful, and it’s accessible,” says Vann. “And only when we start acknowledging mental health as a part of our lives in a positive way can we generate real hope and heal.”
Mental Health News Radio has always been a safe space to discuss hard issues. Its name, and its purpose, remain unwavering. And that’s how ZenCharts’ Rick Glaser, the sponsor of Mental Health News Radio Network, prefers it.
“Your style is our style,” he says. “We are intentionally different, and this industry needs more weirdos.”
Come one, come all—we accept everyone in this tribe. (Just don’t ask us to walk away from the very words that help us inspire so much magnificent change.)