Right now in the US, we are in the middle of Mental Illness Awareness Week, which spans from October 1 through October 7. For those who don’t know what this is or what it means, the Mental Illness Awareness Week is put on every year to help fight the stigma associated with mental illnesses. I know this without having to look it up because all too often, people judge and ridicule that which they don’t understand, especially mental disorders. I am ashamed to say I never paid much attention to this awareness campaign before, even as I suffered from my mental health issues and struggles.
In case you are unsure, mental illnesses include, but are not limited to, Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Psychosis, Bipolar Disorder, eating disorders, ADHD, and Schizophrenia. I’d say the majority of us, no matter which country we are from, do not know much about any of these mental health problems unless we or someone we love suffers from one or more of them. The rest of our knowledge usually comes from secondhand stories, movies, TV, or even the news.
I wish all the information we receive about mental health is accurate, but I know better. A lot of those stories are well-meaning but false at best, downright disturbing at worst. And the opinions about such disorders are often worse than the diagnoses themselves. I mean, just look at the way we treat words associated with mental health. We call people crazy or psycho. We say they need to be locked in the “loony bin.”
Does that sound sensitive and understanding to you? It doesn’t to me. This is part of that stigma I mentioned. People who actually suffer from such illnesses don’t usually like talking about their afflictions for fear of what others will think or say.
For anyone who still doesn’t understand, here is a quote from the National Alliance on Mental Illness: “Stigma is when someone, or even you yourself, views a person in a negative way just because they have a mental health condition. Some people describe stigma as a feeling of shame or judgment from someone else. Stigma can even come from an internal place, confusing feeling bad with being bad.” (https://www.nami.org/stigma)
In light of this, it’s easy to understand why people keep issues to themselves. It’s also easy to understand why they don’t seek treatment. The major problem with that is, without help or treatment of some kind, the issues get worse. The awful, scary, intrusive thoughts can fester in the mind and even take control away from the rational side who was too scared to reach out.
From reading my blog, you all know I believe in therapy and medication if they are needed in order to treat the symptoms of mental illness. Now, I can’t tell someone else that this is what they should do because I am not them. I don’t know their specific issues. But I do know that most, if not all, mental health problems do not correct themselves on their own. Doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, nurses, experts of some kind are needed.
To anyone who thinks they might have depression, please go get screened. Please. It can feel incredibly scary to be tested or to meet with someone to talk about it. Trust me, I know. The very first time I called my therapist, I was just looking for someone to help me. Anyone. I wasn’t even sure it was going to be her. I was so nervous I wrote down what I wanted to say and read it both silently and aloud to myself many times before dialing her number. But I did it anyway. My body trembled, my voice shook, my mouth went dry, but I did it anyway. I fought through the fear. I am asking you–no, begging you please get help. It’s so much better once you do.
I can’t guarantee things will magically be perfect once you seek help. It won’t, honestly. However, you will be a step closer toward hope and away from despair. Please don’t give up and give in. The same goes for all of you who have sought help only to still struggle. Life, your life, is worth you finding the right combination of treatment that will help you.
If you are wondering where to start, here are some resources I found:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org HelpLine 800-950-6264
- http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/mental-health-providers/ART-20045530 **This is an article from the Mayo Clinic on what type of mental health provider you might need
- http://www.samhsa.gov (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Help Line 1-800-662-HELP (4357) **confidential, free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in English or Spanish
- https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/hotlines/ **A comprehensive list of anonymous, confidential hotlines and helplines for information, support, and referrals
(To be clear, I am not being paid by any person/organization/group here. I am sharing this for the sole purpose of helping those who need this information.)
I deeply apologize for not having information on mental health providers outside of the US, but I promise there is someone out there to help you. Please, please search until you find a provider.
And to all of you, whether you have mental health issues or not, please think of those that do. Remember how hurtful words can be. Remember that fear is a powerful thing and can keep people from getting treatment they so very much might need. If you know someone who is suffering, please offer them help.
Please let’s not give up on each other.