World Mental Health Day
Mental health. How and why do we make the choices we make? How do we relate to others and have healthy relationships? Handle the natural ups and downs of life? Grow towards our potential and reach our goals? Mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand. Caring for your mind is just as important as caring for your body, or even more so (at least to me).
According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental health problems affect approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States–43.8 million, or 18.5% of the population in a year. The most common mental illness in the United States is anxiety disorder, which affects 42 million adults in the U.S. age 18 and older (18.1% of the population). Mental illnesses are not like bruises or cuts that show up on the surface. Not all pain is physical and not all wounds are visible.
Be kind whenever possible, and it’s always possible. Like American Psychologist John Watson once said, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Really, being kind is a choice.
It’s not uncommon for someone with anxiety to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder–are they clearly visible? No. Be considerate. Please do not throw mental disorders around like adjectives. “Stop being so psycho!” “I swear my mom is so bipolar.” “Eat more hamburgers, you look anorexic!” “I stayed up until 2 am, my insomnia is awful!”
Make sure you have a holistic picture of who someone is before you say or do something that potentially becomes one of the reasons someone collapses. We’re strong beings, but we’re also fragile…one of the biggest paradoxes in life. Mental health issues are important and deserve to be taken seriously. We never know what hides behind a smile. Terror. Panic. Despair. Isolation. Loneliness. Confusion. It’s okay to not be okay all the time. Simply put, do not make assumptions. Do not judge a book by its cover.
I know how frustrating it is when someone who probably did not experience the same or very similar condition says “I know how you feel” because although it is said with good intentions, it can also be detected as a discouraging sign that you actually do not quite understand the intensity of the situation. Instead, you may genuinely state “I can’t imagine what it is like for you, but I know it must be really hard.”
There is so much stigma attached to mental health, and it is time to take those barriers down. Stigma causes shame. Don’t tell someone to “snap out of it, many people have it worse than you”, “stop being so sad”, or “she/he’s just looking for attention” when you’re not clear on the kind of a situation they are facing. Just because someone else may have seemingly bigger problems does not make this individual’s challenges any less. We all cope differently.
Is it any wonder why many people suffer in silence? Shame causes silence. How do we get people to accept themselves and how they feel, open up and talk about it if they feel like they are going to be picked on for every word that leaves their mouth or feel like their emotions are invalid? Don’t ever mock a pain you have not experienced or understand. We don’t tell a cancer patient to get over it, so why do the same to someone who suffers from depression? We’re human beings, and we deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. End the stigma and the discrimination now.
Mental illnesses are very much real and we need to talk about it. Talk to your doctor. Reach out to other families. Get informed. End bias. Health is wealth and happiness is healthy. Don’t be that barrier that prevents faster treatment and recovery for someone else. Don’t ignore your mental health. People are not their illness. Mental illness isn’t a choice, but recovery is. Mental health is important. Mental health matters.
You matter. You’re important.
I stumbled upon two very nice posts on Pinterest I’d love to share with you: 50 Ways to Practice Self-Care and A Therapist’s Prescription for Better Mental Health
What does it mean to you to be mentally healthy? How does it look and feel? And how will you go about becoming mentally healthier?