Ditulis oleh: Felisa Yunita
Disunting oleh: Fanya Tarissa
Ilustrasi oleh: Bima Oktavian

All too often, when we encounter headaches—from light to severe ones—or get injured from certain physical accidents, we quickly take Paracetamols or other painkillers and maybe get some help in health clinics or hospitals. The reason is simple: we can’t stand the pain that our bodies physically suffered from or in some cases, we probably don’t know how to medically treat the injuries and relieve the pain immediately. Yet, it’s a thing most people often forget—that pain does not only come from our body, physically, but also from our psyche which sometimes translated to our emotions.

As kids, for example, falling from a bike when we were just learning how to cycle usually causes a weep—though it might be a cry of embarrassment, it essentially signs that physical pain can also trigger a  mental one. As babies, on the day we were born into this “cruel but wonderful” world, us crying out loud was a very crucial sign of life because it indicated that we breathe. When our parents heard that cry for the first time, I bet they were so glad to hear that sound and most likely started crying along. Uniquely, and unsurprisingly, they cried after hearing our cries because they were overwhelmed by positive emotions that they don’t know how to express appropriately other than crying (Vingerhoets, 2016).

Contrary to macho-ish popular belief: “crying is only for losers”, as a matter of fact, it plays an important role for our mental health. It is a way to express your feelings and we should be grateful for it because it means we can still feel our feelings. According to Ad Vingerhoets, Professor of Clinical Psychology from Tilburg University, Netherlands, we’re most likely to cry from feelings of helplessness and/or hopelessness coupled with sadness. Crying serves as a communication means and a social trigger for empathy and connectedness or, basically, to signal others that we need their help and support. He adds that feelings of loss and powerlessness are a significant drive for tearfulness throughout our lives—we cry, as we get older, to experiences that give our lives more meaning and depth (Vingerhoets, 2016). Similarly, according to Michael Trimble, Professor Emeritus at University College London, tears is a sign that we’re vulnerable at times and vulnerability is critical to human connection (Oaklander, 2016). He reiterated the claim by saying “… Actually being able to cry emotionally, and being able to respond to that, is a very important part of being human.” Overnight cries, however, are something that easily makes us forget that crying isn’t always a bad thing and that it bears importance for us. 

Nevertheless, human’s capacity to be honest with their feelings tend to dissipate as they get older. When we were kids, our feelings are as clear as glass—whether we feel ashamed of falling from a bike, defeated in a game console match, or powerless from failing a math test. In responding to them, we often carefreely cry or have a meltdown in front of friends, family, or other people. But, as we get older, we start to hide our feelings which consequently ignore them for some reasons. Most of the time, it’s because we’re afraid that people will identify us for having any sort of mental disorder, which is heavily stigmatized, especially in a devoutly religious society. We normally, and fearfully, assume people will stigmatize us for being invalid; unable to think and behave rationally and logically; or even dangerous for having any subtle mental disturbance. From that fear, we usually start to hide all of the things that indicate our sufferings. 

We Fear the Stigma, Not the Illness Itself

We must’ve heard, in real life or online, how people stigmatize persons with bipolar disorder as crazy or uncontrolled for having wide-ranging mood swings—from depressive lows to manic highs—that they can’t control. Or persons with depression and/or anxiety as sinful, immoral, or ungrateful and that they need to start practicing their religions more decently (Primala, 2019). Or schizophrenics as possessed by demons or black magic and thus need to be brought to a dukun, or shaman, to be exorcised (Jakarta Globe, 2018). All the stigma and harsh treatment people directed to persons with mental illness eventually only lead to their worse sufferings and exclusion by the society which would impede them from getting clinical help and treatment that they need.

Being in an incessantly-obsessed-with-others society, it’s an illusory normal that we are afraid to let people know about our issues, especially whether we’re struggling mentally. This stigma frightens us so much to seek help when we really need one. In other cases, stigmatization also comes in a form of distrust, suspicion, or ridicule towards people for having unlikely mental disorders—the case of Indonesian comedian, Tri Retno Prayudati or Nunung, gives us an instance. Last year, in response to Nunung’s medical report from Dr. Henry Taruli Tambunan, psychiatric at Rumah Sakit Ketergantungan Obat (RSKO), Cibubur, East Jakarta, Judge Djoko Indiarto uttered that he didn’t believe Nunung could suffer from depression since all she does at work is laughing and giggling—in his word, cengengesan. As a matter of fact, Nunung had been receiving mental health treatment for her depression and anxiety from professional psychiatric for at least three years (Putri, 2019).

End the Stigma Here and Now 

Paradoxically, we will never know whether we feel sad or happy when we never encounter sadness yet. We’ll never know how it feels to be happy when there is no unhappy time and depressing moment in our lives. And although still unproven scientifically, we often believe that we need to feel worse before we can feel better—in which process crying helps us a lot (Pierre, 2018).

It’s an irony that the world seemingly forces us to always look happy and consistently do our works perfectly when the truth is life doesn’t work that way as there is no life without a problem. We are afraid to openly express that we are suffering, and in some other times, we don’t even have enough energy to put on a smile and be present among crowds where our anxiety might mount even worse. So easily, we push aside the many emotions we feel and pretend to look content in front of others—by still showing that pretty smile on camera even though we feel like we’re gonna die inside—so as to avoid their speculations regarding our psychological conditions.

The pain that we are hiding every day—from shame, guilt, hate, jealousy—is definitely destructive for our mental health. Psychological pain is also a pain. It’s as serious as the physical pain we are suffering when our bodies feel sick. It’s extremely important to be honest with ourselves first and to know exactly what we are suffering from, acknowledge it, and learn how to cope with it. If you need to cry, go for it. If you don’t have enough energy to go out with anybody, then just take a day off. Go easy on yourself.  If you need help, then go seek help from your significant others and/or medical professionals. Nobody can stop you from using your rights to seek help. Reflecting upon the World Health Organization’s wisdom, “There is no health without mental health.” Although intangible, psychological pain is also a pain that needs to be cured and treated professionally because feeling bodily and mentally well is more important than merely looking bodily and mentally perfect. And just remember that your mental health is way more important than what people think about you.


Jakarta Globe. (2018) Stigma of Mental Illness Makes Us Sicker [Online]. Available at https://jakartaglobe.id/news/stigma-mental-illness-makes-us-sicker/ (Accessed: 29 October 2020).

Pierre, J. (2018) Why Do We Cry? Exploring the Psychology of Emotional Tears [Online]. Available at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psych-unseen/201804/why-do-we-cry-exploring-the-psychology-emotional-tears (Accessed: 29 October 2020).

Primala, D.A. (2019) 6 Stigma yang Salah Tentang Gangguan dan Kesehatan Mental [Online]. Available at https://pijarpsikologi.org/6-stigma-yang-salah-tentang-gangguan-dan-kesehatan-mental/ (Accessed: 29 October 2020).

Putri, A.W. (2019). Stigma Sosial Menghalangi Kesembuhan Penderita Gangguan Jiwa [Online]. Available at https://tirto.id/stigma-sosial-menghalangi-kesembuhan-penderita-gangguan-jiwa-ekv2 (Accessed: 29 October 2020).

Oaklander, M. (2016). The Science of Crying. [Online]. Available at https://time.com/4254089/science-crying/ (Accessed: 29 October 2020).

Vingerhoets, A. (2016). ‘Tears were and still are crucial for our functioning’. Interviewed by Gail Kinman for The British Psychological Society. Available at https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-29/march-2016/tears-were-and-still-are-crucial-our-functioning (Accessed: 29 October 2020).

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