May is Mental Health Awareness month and the National Alliance on Mental Illness has chosen “Cure Stigma” as their theme for this year’s campaign. Studies have shown that one in five Americans is battling a mental illness. Many of these individuals don’t seek help and one of the main reasons is because they fear being judged, ridiculed or shunned by others. Sometimes they even judge themselves for thinking they need help. They then live in silence, undiagnosed. Even when a person is diagnosed, they keep quiet for fear of the stigma surrounding mental illness.
It took me many years to seek help for my depression. I recognized the signs for years yet was ashamed to see a professional. When I finally made the decision, talking with someone helped me sort out feelings and past traumas that I never addressed. It took me even longer to share my struggles and even now I don’t talk about it often. I’m sharing now because I also want to cure the stigma and if my sharing helps even one person then I know I am doing my job as a wellness coach.
Mental Illness is a broad term that includes depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, OCD, and PTSD. A mental illness can affect a person’s thinking, feelings or mood. Many of these conditions may also affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day. These can often be debilitating where individuals feel they can’t participate in society or feel that they can’t cope.
There are a few causes that can lead to a mental health condition. Genetics, environment and lifestyle all play a role. As do a stressful job or home life and experiencing a traumatic event. This is not to say that everyone who experiences these events will result in a mental health condition, these just make individuals more susceptible.
Having one of these conditions does not mean you are a weak person or should be ashamed and neither does asking for help. Accessing help is crucial to recovery especially in the early stages. Many of us would like to believe we have all these answers and can do everything on our own, but the truth is sometimes life can be more challenging and having a trusted person on our side can make all the difference. If you know someone who suffers from a condition listed here, encourage them to get help or find a way to get it for them. There is nothing wrong with relying on others, talking things out, asking for advice, needing extra support. It actually takes courage and strength to confront our conditions head on.
In addition to talking with someone there are some holistic things you can do as well. Meditation, exercise and a healthier diet have all been linked to helping those with a mental health condition. I know that exercise significantly helped my depression a couple years ago and meditation has helped with any stress I feel during the day.
Please ask for help if you need it! And if you know someone who needs help, help them get it. Let’s make sure we check on our people and give them all the love they need this month and all the months of the year.