The month of May is now over and it was an important one to many. It wasn’t just the time for final exams, graduations, and Memorial Day weekend. The month of May is an important one to many people, because it is the month for Mental Health Awareness. During this time, the conversation on mental illness is at an all time high, with public events pertaining to mental illness and easier access to mental health screenings. This is the time that mental health is covered more in the media, and a bigger topic of conversation in our country. This is a month that is a big deal to many in our country, but do you know why it is a big deal?
There’s a stigma around mental illness to this day. People are sometimes marked as a disgrace for suffering mentally, many times they are treated like they are less than normal, they are treated like they don’t belong in society. Do you know what the craziest part about this is? With hundreds of confirmed mental illnesses out there, 1 in 5 people in our country suffer with a mental illness. If you are one of the 4 who do not suffer from a mental illness, why should you care? Chances are, at least one of your family members, friends, coworkers,acquaintances, etc, are one of the 20% who have a mental illness.
Think about someone in your life that may suffer from a mental illness, with everything they are fighting day to day with their own mental health. How do you feel about them being treated like they are less than you, like they are abnormal and therefore shouldn’t be treated the same way as everyone else, how do you feel about them being mocked by others, and marked as “crazy” , “not right in the head” etc?
If for some weird reason you are still wondering why this should matter to you, take a walk in the shoes of someone who struggles with their mental health. For a minute, imagine being your worst enemy, imagine struggling to find inner peace in yourself no matter how hard you try, imagine wishing you had a normal thought process and didn’t have all these lingering complications that conflict with your moods, decision making, social skills, peace of mind, the list goes on. Do you care now?
Mental illness isn’t new, but it is being taken more seriously than it ever has been. More people are coming out to talk about their struggles and are less ashamed of what is going on with them, more people are accepting of these situations going on with others, and more resources are out there than ever before. While there is no direct cure for mental illness, this is all a good start, but it’s not enough.
It takes more than being accepting of someone’s mental illness. You owe it to those 1 in 5 to be more educated on the topic, and I don’t just mean knowing statistics and knowing a list of different mental illnesses. By being educated on the topic, I mean, we need to know how to treat someone with a mental illness, we owe it to them to be aware on what triggers someone’s mental illness, we need to know the warning signs, and most importantly, we need to know what we can do to help.
Mental illness is something that is played out in movies, television, and music quite a bit. This is because it’s a reality to so many people. Just in this past month, the Netflix Series “13 Reasons Why” dropped it’s second season, which tackles many subjects, one of them being depression, probably the most common of the ever growing list of mental illnesses.
The most mainstream song dealing with mental illness currently as I’m writing this article, is “In My Blood” by Shawn Mendes a song that tackles the issue of anxiety. This song just spent the last week at #1 on iTunes. The popular movie Silver Linings Playbook, though a few years old, is a movie that goes around the stigma of bipolar disorder. If any of these examples don’t work for you, there are hundreds of different songs, movies, books, and television shows that cover a wide range of mental illnesses. If this subject is getting played out so much in our entertainment industry, why is there still such a stigma around it?
Person by person, we can break that stigma bit by bit. You don’t need your masters in psychology to make someone who suffers from a mental illness have a little easier time with it. We need to make it aware that it’s okay that someone is the way they are, we have to show love and respect for not only people without a mental illness, but people with one too. We have to not only let them talk about it, but we need to get comfortable about talking about it ourselves, that way people who are suffering can trust they can come to us when they need it the most.
We need to pay attention to the ones around us, we need to know when someone is not being themselves. We need to know when someone is crying out for help, even if they aren’t directly doing so, we need to take care of one another. We need to stick up for people when they are made to feel like they are “wrong”, “messed up”, or “crazy” for having a mental illness. We need to educate each other when someone lashes out against a mental illness and is mocking those who suffer.
If you know someone who struggles with their mental health, do your homework, for them. Research different ways to help them cope with what they are going through. Be patient with them. Be more forgiving to someone who has done you wrong because of their mental illness. Be more accepting of them and don’t think that just because they may have trouble treating you and the ones closest to them sometimes, that they have bad intentions or a bad heart. Medication is out there, therapy is out there, different things are out there, but these are not permanent cures for someone’s mental health issues.
Some people may have an easier time controlling their mental health than others, just remember that not everyone’s situation is the same. If you are still reading this, I challenge you to try to start a conversation with someone you know and care about who struggles with a mental health issue, I challenge you to let them know you will always be here for them and you care about them despite what they go through, and I challenge you to be more aware to their situation.
If you have had a falling out with someone due to their actions based from their mental health, I challenge you to forgive and forget. If you have given up on someone due to their mental health issues, I challenge you to give it a second thought. If you still aren’t sure what to do, I just challenge you to read up a little bit more on the subject overall. The month of May is over, but remember, to the ones who suffer from a mental illness, this is their life the other 11 months of the year as well.