okay /ˌōˈkā/, adj.

I am far from being the first person to say this, but maybe someday when enough people say it, it’ll be more believable than it currently is: It is important to take care of yourself.

I’ll say it again: It is important to take care of yourself.

This isn’t just in regards to your physical health, like when you have a fever and you decide to stay home from school or work so you can recover more quickly and not infect anyone else. This is also in regards to mental health.

Perhaps the topic of mental health and the question of accessing proper [mental] health care has come up more often in the recent past because of the presidential election. (Demi Lovato spoke passionately about the topic at the DNC this summer.) Perhaps it is just slowly, but surely, gaining more traction in general because an increasing number of people are experiencing mental health problems and are less afraid to speak out about it.

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Berkeley, CA | Photo by Courtney Cheng

I’ve seen more and more posts about mental health crop up on my Facebook and Twitter feeds in the past six months than I ever had before — much like it has in appeared present societal dialogue. Friends are liking articles (such as this one) and sharing their personal experiences and struggles with taking care of their mental health.

These posts are always showered with Likes — and now “Love”s — and a slew of comments offering support, solidarity, or even more stories. Reading these always brings me this strange feeling of half hope and half anguish.

While it is encouraging to see that so many people are so willing to offer their support, love, and selves to those who are struggling — there is still a piece missing for me in this conversation.

A person can acknowledge their mental health status and receive the support of their entire friend and family network, but still struggle to take care of themself. It is one thing to acknowledge your mental health status, but still another step to accept it.

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Washington, D.C. | Photo by Courtney Cheng

Everyone knows this line so well, we make jokes about it: “The first step to getting better is admitting you have a problem.”

But I think we often overlook, in the midst of our jokes, the truth behind this statement — as well as two of the crucial following steps: recognizing someone else’s ability to help you and actively accepting that help.

I know, “it’s easier said than done.” I know. 

It is tantamount that we all agree it is important to take care of ourselves. However, when it comes to addressing mental health, I believe there is a statement that is just as, if not even more important than the former: It is okay.

It’s okay to take a break from school to take care of yourself. It’s okay to cancel plans to take care of yourself.

It’s okay to bake scone loaves and bread, eat them, and then lie in bed all day to take care of yourself.

Whatever it is, it is okay. Just take care of yourself.

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