Last week was Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 1st – 7th), which addresses an issue I’m very passionate about. Throughout my own recovery, I uncovered why I was always running away from myself and into the grips of addiction. The scariest part about mental illness is how many people are walking around with no idea that what they’re battling has a name or diagnosis. The truth is, this disorder is more common than others. In the U.S., 1 in 5 people have a mental illness, but many think they’re alone, so they suffer in silence. Some believe it’s easier to keep it to themselves, but it’s not. Whether you have a mental illness or not, it’s important to start talking about this issue because:
1. Ignoring Mental Illness Won’t Make It Go Away.
How long are we going to act like there aren’t people suffering? If you’re the one suffering, how long are you going to pretend you’re okay? Admitting there are aspects of our lives that we have no control over is not weakness. Just because we can’t touch the illness or determine the exact location of the pain doesn’t make it any less real. Opening up and having conversations about what debilitates us is the only chance we have at normalizing mental illness, and what it means to live with that.
2. Mental Illness Is Not Cured When Told to Just “Get Over It”.
It’s hard enough to fight a battle with ourselves every day, and simply being told “it’s okay” or that “it could be worse” will not cure mental illness. One of the main reasons people don’t speak up about their condition is the responses they get from those who have never had to deal with it. There are many ways to cope and heal over time, but just “getting over it” is not one of them. If the solution to mental illness were that easy, this blog wouldn’t exist. Mental illness is a daily battle, not a cry for attention.
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3. Listening Without Understanding Is Possible.
Sometimes what helps people the most is just having someone who listens, even if that person doesn’t understand the illness. If you know someone with a mental illness, don’t listen with the intent of responding. Listen to understand what’s not so easily understood. Everyone can benefit from learning about these topics and practicing active listening. If someone comes to you to talk about their problems, understand that doing so is extremely hard for them, so be patient, and have an attentive ear and open mind.
4. It’s Okay to Ask for Help, and Receive It.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s the opposite. If you’re struggling with a mental illness, accepting that you’re hurting and seeking help is sign of a strength. Nobody should have to live in pain, and the sooner you acknowledge that you don’t have to do it alone, the sooner you can begin to heal and learn how to cope.
5. What’s Easy for One Person May Be Hard for Another.
There are many kinds and severity levels of mental illness, and they’re all worth talking about. There’s no winner for having the most illnesses, nor is there a competition that you sign up for. Not everyone responds to their mental illness the same way. Therefore, not everyone can be treated in the exact same way. Regardless of the severity of your condition, getting the help you need is the most important thing.
We’re all trying to figure out how to survive the game of life in our own way. We’re all uniquely flawed and wired a bit differently. Let’s not forget that we’re also all in this together and have had our fair share of issues. Being a human is a challenge in and of itself, so let’s not make it harder than it has to be. Let’s talk more about mental illness and educate ourselves on what we may not understand, and treat all people with kindness, because you never know what they’re battling.