Q. Do you think online networks connecting travelers can help with mental health struggles? Do you think currently they don’t address the issue enough?
Yes, online networks can provide the anonymity and convenience of connecting travelers with free mental health resources. I can’t say that online networks aren’t doing it enough, because I haven’t looked into what they’re doing, but after writing several blog posts on mental health, I still feel that there’s a sense of “taboo” around mental health.
That’s why I started being very open about my personal experience with my long-distance breakup. I had more to gain than I had to lose, and I didn’t want travelers or volunteers to go through as much anxiety and guilt as I felt before reaching out for help. Since then, I’ve had friends, acquaintances, and strangers thank me for being so real and for helping them feel less alone.
I don’t tell me stories because I want sympathy-I tell them so that others can feel less alone. The only way we can help each other is by talking about mental health, and to do that, we need to be okay with being vulnerable. That’s easier said than done in most societies, which stigmatize us for reaching out for mental health resources.
Growing up, I was told that only “rich, crazy people” had psychologists. I now realize that poorer communities stigmatize talking about mental health because they simply cannot afford the resources, so they end up dismissing people who are depressed as “weak” or “crazy”. It’s interesting to note that in a country as impoverished as Nicaragua, NGOs do a better job of offering free individual and group therapy options than in the states. This is mind blowing to me, and emphasizes how even the most developed countries perpetuate mental health resources as something only the rich can benefit from.