Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness month? If you watch TV and don’t skip the commercials (unlike my parents who never watch commercials) perhaps you’ve seen the commercial with the man and woman sitting down for what looks like a meal at a restaurant. The gist of the commercial is for the viewer to understand that a personal struggling with mental illness needs to be able to talk about it if he or she chooses. Don’t stay silent, that’s the mantra for the campaign and I couldn’t agree more.
The statistics from 2011 stand clear: One in five adults struggles with a form of mental illness; one in ten young people will experience a period of major depression. As someone who struggles with depression I cannot tell you how freeing it is to speak openly about it. I’ve always been the kind of person who lives my life like an open book but not everyone is like this. The last thing that a person who is struggling with mental illness, whether it’s depression, anxiety or even bipolar disorder, needs to think about it hiding the darkness that they’re living in; unfortunately, that often what happens. Society has a stigma that comes with mental illness and trust me, if you struggle with it there’s no way around feeling like an outcast, like a woman walking around a small Puritan village wearing a scarlet “A” or in my case, “D,” across her chest.
If you don’t struggle with mental illness how do you support someone who does? That’s a great question and really at the heart of May’s Mental Health Awareness month. There are a lot of really helpful websites out there and I’ll share them with you in a little bit. The theme this year for the month is Community. People struggling with mental illness need a safe and supportive community to lean on. As someone who actually struggles with this, however, I’m going to tell you how I would like to be supported:
Allow me to talk about the bad days; you don’t have to offer any suggestions or “fix” the problem. Just give me a safe place to share who I really am.
Don’t treat me like I’m frail and can’t handle anything. I have good months and bad months. I can handle real life problems; don’t treat me like a frail little bird. Let me make that choice.
Understand that it’s not as simple as “snapping out of it.” When I’m stuck in my depression, whatever the trigger may have been, please know that I don’t like feeling like this and living this way. Tough love is not going to make me snap out of it. It’ll actually make me retreat deeper inside of myself.
Believe that I am not a danger to myself or to you; become educated on what mental illness really is rather than assuming it’s what you see on the big screen or you TV screen.
Visit these websites for more information and to better understand mental illness: