June 1 2023 10:00 AM

This is me officially clapping back at mental health talk.

As we now move into June, I couldn’t let us move too far on from May — National Mental Health Awareness month — without talking about mental health. It’s become too important to ignore. And yes, we’re ignoring it. Recently, I was accused of “shoving mental health talk down people’s throats” on social media. This “gentleman,” if we can truly call him a gentleman, claimed that my followers wanted farm content, not “crazy talk.” And his message is everything that’s wrong with the world.

First off, show me a person who has never been frustrated, overwhelmed, or stressed, and I’ll show you a liar. Each one of those emotions, and so many more, are the definition of mental health. Struggling mentally doesn’t just mean you’re depressed, suicidal, or anxious. A lot of times we use simple, everyday phrases that show we’re struggling. We say things like, “I’m just having a bad day” or “I’ve been in a funk all week.” Guess what? THAT’S MENTAL HEALTH.

Secondly, mental health is not the same as mental illness. Being depressed, anxious, or just having a bad day doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It means you’re human. It means that you have emotions and that you feel things. When I’m at my darkest, I often think that I just want to feel normal. The thing is that feeling IS normal. Yes, some people feel the darkness more intensely than the light, but if you didn’t feel anything, you’d never experience the love, joy, or happiness either. Feel all the feelings; take it from someone who knows.

Lastly, trolling people online who openly talk about their mental struggles just isn’t a good look right now. It says a lot more about you than it does about me. One of my favorite things about social media is that if you don’t like someone or something, you can move on. Unfollow, mute, or block them. Or just keep scrolling! Employing these tactics has done wonders for my mental health. Plus, to that “gentleman,” I hate to say it, but your aggressive message mostly just made me think how much you must be struggling right now. And trolling people on the internet isn’t the best way to combat that.

I don’t like to toot my own horn, but right before I go to sleep at night, just after I say my prayers, I can admit to myself that I’m proud of the fact that I can talk about my own struggles out loud. When others call me brave, I easily shrug it off with a silly quip or self-deprecating comment, but the truth is that it’s not easy to be that vulnerable in front of thousands of people. Farmers, especially, often play their emotions close to the vest, as they say, and the fact that I (hopefully) am helping to break down that barrier isn’t a small thing to me.

I’m not asking you to talk about your mental struggles in detail on Instagram; I’m just asking you not to disparage those who do. There have been a lot of times in my life where I haven’t been okay, but when I am, I want to talk about it to the people who aren’t. And I don’t care what you think, because I love that for me.

Jessica Peters

The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.