One in 4 Americans will be afflicted with a form of mental illness in their lifetime, and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. With these statistics, having a mental illness should not be so isolating. Seeking help should not be associated with weakness nor considered unnecessary.
Raising awareness on mental health is one of my top personal priorities. The more people who are aware, the better chance we have to destigmatize mental health issues.
But what is mental illness? According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illnesses “are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities…Mental illness is common.”
Important to keep in mind is that mental illnesses are not feelings that can be tucked away or brushed under the rug. They can be paralyzing, terrifying, and brutal. While I’ve known people who have suffered from bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and others, I’ve also known people who shrug off the notion of mental illness as being a “real illness.” Let’s be clear: hormonal imbalances in the brain, neurological disorders, are real illnesses. With proper treatment, they can be addressed similar to physical ailments and individuals can live perfectly normal, enjoyable lives.
While I’m certainly not a mental health professional, I encourage you to reach out to me or someone you trust if you feel alone or lost. You won’t be the first, and you won’t be the last.
Some great resources to get started:
National Alliance on Mental Illness
“Let’s Talk About Depression” – an article in the Huffington Post by Dr. Tedros Adhanom, of the World Health Organization