It really doesn’t matter whether you struggle with mental illness, or know someone near and dear to you who does; there’s still a very prominent stigma that hangs over the subject like a dry heat, which can make it extremely difficult to really open up about these struggles. And normally, when a comedian finds a way to work these topics into their routine, I hold my breath, because few comics can successfully approach the subject with the correct balance of humor and grace. But Michelle Wolf’s quotes about depression on an episode of her new Netflix show, The Break with Michelle Wolf, were not only delivered flawlessly, they also weren’t the butt of the joke. Instead, the comedian’s insight was actually really profound, and I can assure you, if you watch the clip yourself, each point she makes will stay with you long after the last punch line.
Let me put it this way: I bet you can count on one hand how many times you’ve answered honestly when someone asked you how you were doing. I know myself, and even when my husband comes home from work after I’ve had a rough day, if he asks how I am, it’s almost second-nature for me to look him in the eye, shrug, and say “fine,” even when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Now, of course, he knows me better than anyone, so he can usually call me out on my little white lie, but a co-worker or friend typically can't — which is exactly why, according to Wolf, being more candid about the way you really feel is the first step to ending the stigma around mental health once and for all.
Wolf began her monologue by talking about the tragic deaths of designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain, and TBH, I was initially a little nervous about what she'd say next.
Typically, when I watch a comedian do their thing, I’m silently praying their material doesn’t dip into the more serious headlines of the moment, so when Wolf brought up Spade and Bourdain, it took less than a second to have the remote control in my hand, with my finger grazing the “power off” button. I was honestly nervous about how Wolf would talk about these serious subjects, and I had a feeling the 32-year-old comedian could either nail it or blow it. It turns out, though, Wolf definitely knows how to be funny and still get an extremely important message across, one I can assure you you won't forget any time soon.
After cracking a few lighthearted jokes to honor the fond memories Wolf has of the late celebrity influencers — buying her first Kate Spade knock-off, meeting Bourdain on the set of Late Night With Seth Meyers — the comedian made it a point to say she is not, by any means, a mental health professional. Still, Wolf continued, she personally believes the first step to de-stigmatizing depression and other mental health issues is to "get rid of the pressure to pretend we’re happy, even when we’re not" — and honestly, I think she’s onto something pretty damn brilliant. She said in the episode,
How can we have an honest conversation about anything, if we're always supposed to seem flawless?
It's OK to admit that life is terrifying, and we never know what's going to happen next.
And she's definitely not wrong; according to experts, admitting you're not OK is the first step to accepting the reality of mental health struggles.
Wolf is 100 percent right in her message: It's OK to not be OK, but more importantly, it's OK to admit that you're not OK. According to Dr. Susan Julius, MD, ABAM, ABFM, AAMRO, one of the main reasons why someone might hesitate to admit they aren't doing so well is that, when something is wrong mentally, there's usually not a quick-fix, and to some, the issue isn't always easily understood.
"When it comes to mental illness, you can't see it. The problem isn't physical, it's psychological," Julius tells Elite Daily. "When we have to admit we are 'mentally broken,' then the character defect of pride is involved. So, it is easier to just say, 'I am fine,' than to admit you truly aren't." It's heartbreaking when you think about it, but the truth is, your mental health really is just as important as your physical health, and even though the issue may not be tangible, it's still fixable with the right resources.
"Public messaging to emphasize honesty about our emotional states is just as important as taking our temperature when we have flu-like symptoms or experience chills," Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, tells Elite Daily. "We can beat [mental health stigma] by being honest with ourselves. It involves a cultural shift in the way we view mental health issues."
So where do you start? Granted, it's a huge task to get rid of or move past mental health stigma, and it's not something one person can completely erase on their own. However, if it's something you're passionate about, but aren't sure how to address in your everyday life, the first step, as Wolf pointed out, is to be unapologetically honest about your feelings. This can start in everyday conversation with loved ones or friends, and eventually, maybe you'll even feel comfortable being candid with co-workers, or the barista who asks how you're doing before you order.
In helping yourself feel better in this way, you're automatically opening up the dialogue for others to chime in. It's a small step on a large scale, sure, but it's a step worth taking.