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.
If your life currently seems dark and abysmal, I ask that you consider a quote by Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” You can keep going, and you don’t have to be alone. I am not a mental health professional, but 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 Write Love On Her Arms – a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting resources to people struggling with mental illness
*Every year I participate in TWLOHA’s annual 5k to raise awareness on mental health issues. The 5k is held throughout the country, so if you are interested in joining me for 2018’s event, let me know!
“Let’s Talk About Depression” – an article in the Huffington Post by Dr. Tedros Adhanom, of the World Health Organization