Today, I’m going green for Mental Health Awareness. May is Mental Health Awareness month here in the United States. This is something near and dear to my heart because I live with five (5) mental illnesses every day of my life and I have a tendency towards a sixth (which just means that my symptoms aren’t bad enough for full diagnosis).
- 1 in 5 adults (60 million people) in the United States lives with a mental health condition.
- 1 in 25 adults (10 million people) in the United States live with a serious mental health condition.
- 60 million adults in the United States face the day-to-day reality of living and dealing with a mental illness.
- 90% of all suicides are committed by people with a mental health condition, but it doesn’t have to be this way. 70-90% of all sufferers experience a significant reduction of symptoms if they are getting the right treatment and have good support.
(All statistics are from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
I am one of those 60 million people. Day-to-day living with a mental illness is not easy, to say the least. Some days, it’s debilitating. Other days, it’s just simply hard. On those days when it’s just simply hard, I’m able to go to work, able to blog, able to get together with friends, able to have a life. The days in which it’s debilitating, it’s just that – debilitating. I cannot work, cannot blog, cannot hang out with friends. About the most I can do is maybe make it out of bed to the couch. Maybe.
Mental health isn’t something that’s easy to talk about and yet, it should be. One should be able to say, “My anxiety is really high today” just as easily as one can say, “Man, my allergies are really bad today”. They’re both illnesses. Neither is more “legitimate” than the other. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma attached to mental illnesses. Stigma refers to not only the tangible reasons that most people stay silent such as bullying, rejection, and discrimination, but it also refers to the intangible reasons, feeling isolated, being blamed for your mental illness, and feeling shame for having a mental illness.
If you notice, while I’m open about the fact that I have five (5) mental illnesses, I did not name them. That’s because of the stigma associated with them. It’s become more acceptable to talk about having depression and anxiety, both of which I have. But there are still some very severe mental illnesses where the stigma attached is so great that people automatically assume that if someone has one of those illnesses, they’re a danger to society. Unfortunately, I have one of those. Consequently, I don’t usually talk about what specific mental illnesses I have.
However, let me be candid and frank. Any mental illness, no matter how severe, does not automatically mean the person is a danger to society. I’m not saying it’s not possible. We all know it’s possible. I watch the news as much as the rest of you. But simply having a mental illness should not be the sole component that an individual is judged on. Period. Do you automatically think that someone with diabetes or multiple scleorsis or cancer is a danger to society? No, you probably don’t because most people don’t. Similarly, those with schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities), antisocial personality disorder, or any other mental illness should not automatically be considered a danger to society. With the proper treatment (which is usually a combination of medication and therapy), people can learn how to cope with their mental illness and can be productive members of society, but many don’t seek help because of all the stigma attached to mental illness. We as a society need to work together to change that.
My challenge to all of you today is two-fold:
- I encourage you to educate yourself, learn about the disorders that people have, and then go out and start conversations with people about mental illness. Help end the stigma that people with mental illness feel. Help end any stigma you may feel against someone with a mental illness. Only by working together can we end all stigma.
- If you have a mental illness and you’re currently not seeking help for whatever reason, please do yourself the favor and seek help. It is the single best thing you can do to change your life. It’s not easy. I know it’s not, but it really is the single best thing you can do to learn how to cope with your mental illness.