May is Mental Health Awareness Month – a month dedicated to breaking the stigma around mental health so those who may need support can more readily access it.
Mental health is difficult to talk about. But we need to talk about it. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States live with mental illness. That means it’s likely that someone you care about is experiencing mental illness. It’s also likely this person is not seeking treatment because less than half of those who need to, do. While most of the population may not experience mental illness in their lifetimes, all of us face daily challenges that can take a toll on our mental well-being.
It’s hard to know what someone might be experiencing because mental hardships don’t always manifest themselves physically, and that’s why it’s so important to talk about mental health. The more we talk about something as difficult as mental health, the easier it becomes to talk about. And now more than ever, it’s critical that we normalize talking about what is mentally affecting us, so we know that we’re not alone.
The stigma surrounding mental illnesses can make life more difficult for those who are already suffering. They might feel invalidated, isolated, or ashamed. They might feel like there is a big part of their life they have to hide from those they love. They might be more hesitant to seek treatment because they’re afraid of what seeking help might mean. By not seeking treatment, their symptoms will worsen and become more difficult to treat and that can lead to more serious consequences.
So how do we begin the conversation around mental health? Simply by talking about it and as we do, remember the following:
- It is okay not to be okay. It’s easy to forget that “negative” emotions, the ones that aren’t glamorous to share so we’d rather keep them to ourselves, are also real emotions. And all your emotions are valid and deserve to be acknowledged.
- There is no shame in needing help. Most people do not have the capacity to deal with mental health issues on their own, so asking for help does not mean you are weak. There is nothing wrong with therapy or medication if those are the things that help you take care of your mind. You must take care of your mind to take care of yourself.
- You are not alone. There are millions of people around the world who are dealing with a mental illness, and even more who are dealing with mental hardships. You might feel like you’re alone and that nobody will understand, but someone will understand. You have people who love you and care for you – create a strong support system so you don’t have to go through difficult times by yourself.
- If someone you love talks to you about their mental health issues, listen to them and support them. It’s hard for most people to open up about their mental health because of the stigma surrounding it, so just actively listen before responding. It can be a lot to learn about someone’s mental health struggles, especially if it’s not something you’ve dealt with before, so it’s okay not to have all the “right answers.” Sometimes, all someone is looking for is judgment-free support.
Mental health is difficult to talk about. But we need to talk about it, so let’s start the conversation.
For resources on mental health, visit:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Mental Health America
- Drugwatch – How to Deal with Anxiety
- OutwitTrade – How to Deal with Anxiety