Health and wellness touch everyone’s life differently. This is one person’s story. The views and opinions expressed are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Healthline Media.

Recently, the New York Times ran an article with research that seems to show that increased conversation surrounding mental health is doing a disservice to young people. When the article came out, many of my friends and colleagues came to me, their favorite mental health advocate (who lives with bipolar), with a look of sadness in their eyes and said some form of, “Can you believe this?”

“Yes,” I replied, “because I’m pretty certain it’s true.”

“But, Gabe,” they say, “how can robust and free conversations surrounding mental health be bad? Isn’t more conversation better?” The reality is that conversations surrounding anything are only as good as the context of those conversations — and many advocates have been stating for years that mental health education in the United States is poor.

Mental health advocates, like myself, have been pushing for better education initiatives because we know the difference between having anxiety and having an anxiety disorder. We understand the difference between having a bout of depression and having major depressive disorder. Finally, we know the difference between mental health and mental illness.

And that last difference is a doozy. Because, I’m sad to say, people often conflate the two. Just as general health can be either good or poor, mental health is too often viewed as being only bad. As host of the “Inside Bipolar” and “Inside Mental Health” podcasts, I routinely hear my guests and fans describe all mental health as bad.

Since everyone has bad mental health sometimes, it becomes easy to jump to “You must have a mental health disorder” when experiencing any adverse mental health issues. Since people aren’t weighing bad mental health against good mental health (or even baseline mental health), they can be very quick to assume they have a mental health disorder.

We simply aren’t educating people that having depression or anxiety is just a natural part of the human experience. Even in cases when someone has an atypically high amount of anxiety, as an example, it does not mean a disorder is at play.

Let’s consider the scenario of having no choice but to live on the streets in the U.S. This would naturally cause a lot of anxiety for many people. Do we believe that our unhoused population would benefit from receiving an anxiety disorder diagnosis and treatment rather than finding them stable and supportive housing?

Anxiety and depression are reasonable reactions to many things that happen to us. For someone to not have anxiety in the above situation would be extremely unusual, to say the least. The mere presence of a mental health issue doesn’t mean something has gone drastically wrong with our minds. It can actually be a strong indicator that things are working as they should.

I think the reason we are so quick to try to convince people that they are having a mental health crisis is because fixing the causes of these issues — things like school funding, violence, and homelessness — is extremely difficult. If we can just scapegoat mental health as the culprit, that’s an easier “out” than actually solving the cause of said mental health concerns.

As someone who lives with bipolar disorder, I am happy to see more discussion surrounding mental health. I just wish it was a productive one.

Gabe Howard is the host of Healthline podcasts “Inside Mental Health” and “Inside Bipolar.”