Mental illness is, for some, the elephant in the room, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many benefits of discussing it.

If you spend part of your day around people in an office, at school, at a coffee shop, or any other public place, you’ve probably met someone who struggles with mental illness. What most people don’t understand about mental illness is that you can be talking to someone who lives with it on a daily basis … but since there are no visible signs, you’d never know it. Even if the signs were visible, how many people would talk about them? Mental illness is, for some, the elephant in the room, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many benefits of discussing it.

Just How Common Is Mental Illness?

According to the World Health Association (WHO), 1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, and around 450 million people are currently suffering. This makes mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. Another startling fact is that more than half of those suffering don’t receive treatment, due to neglect and fear of stigma and discrimination. “Where there is neglect, there is little or no understanding. Where there is no understanding, there is neglect.”

By talking about this issue and educating as many people as possible, we can beat the stigma of mental illness, and make sure people are getting the proper care without feeling shameful about it. There is no reason for mental illness to be treated any differently from other illnesses. For those of us who suffer, we should never have to feel bad about receiving or asking for help, because this is how we take the right step toward healing.

My Quarter Life Crisis

When I say, “My Quarter Life Crisis,” I’m referring to the fact that it took me 25 years to realize that the reason I resorted to drugs and alcohol at such a young age involved mental illness. No one in my family ever talked about their illnesses, or what they were struggling with, and I grew up believing that everyone was living in fear of their own thoughts on a daily basis. I also developed a mindset that asking for any kind of help meant weakness, and it was this line of thinking that kept me struggling much longer than I needed to. I kept everything bottled up so tightly that, over time, my thoughts and actions became normalized, which is the scariest part about mental illness. I have spent most of my life running from myself, and I spent the last year of my recovery trying to learn and understand why.

It’s no secret that there’s a link between substance abuse and mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) showed that 7.9 million people in the U.S. experience both a mental disorder and substance use disorder simultaneously. But why does this connection exist? For those of us battling mental illness, drugs and alcohol have a powerful way of making us feel like everything can be better … temporarily, that is. Resorting to substances only makes matters worse in the long run. Acknowledging that there’s a problem in the first place is the best way to start healing.

The greatest gift I ever gave myself was the permission to ask for help, and to no longer apologize for how I feel. No matter who you are or you’re battling, you are not your mental illness; you are simply a human being choosing to survive one day at a time.

You Are So Much More Than Your Mental Illness!

Just because you can’t see it or point to the exact spot of where you’re hurting doesn’t make your feelings any less valid. We must stop thinking that someone with a mental illness just wants attention or that they’re just using it as a cry for help, but even if they were … a cry for help is still a cry for help! If we can’t address the elephant in the room and deal with mental illness head-on, how can we expect the problem to get solved? You can’t just slap a bandage on depression and say “get well soon,” nor can you tell someone with an anxiety disorder that they are overreacting and should just “get over it.” It’s blanket statements like these that keep people quiet about what’s causing them pain. It also forces them to feel more alone, and continue to isolate deeper.

I choose to speak up about mental illness because I’m tired of nobody else wanting to talk about it. Yes, certain topics may be uncomfortable, and no, I don’t think we need to spend every moment talking about it, but we do have to start talking about it sooner rather than later. If I have learned anything, it’s that these problems do not solve themselves. By living in denial, and avoiding the truth of who we are, we’re just putting off what needs to be addressed. It’s important that you know that you are so much more than your mental illness, and it’s possible to gain control over what has controlled you for so long.

Don’t be afraid to address the elephant in the room. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Part of getting the assistance you need is to reach out to those that would understand where you are and can help you. Feel free to reach out to our alcohol and drug treatment specialists if you need to speak with someone who understands.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.