May is Mental Health month and there are several reasons why you should recognize it.
Reason # 1: You are impacted
If the term “mental illness” has you imagining a crazy-eyed lunatic in a straight jacket, it’s time for some more educating. This problem isn’t unique to the set of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Mental illness is everywhere. It’s in your home, your school and your workplace. It may not even look like anything on the outside, but the internal struggles are real. Whether someone is battling depression, anxiety or PTSD chances are someone you care about is suffering or has suffered. Dr. Joyce Burland with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) says in a room of about 50 people, it’s likely about 8 have a mental illness serious enough to require professional help.
Reason #2: Breaking the stigma will make us all healthier
Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. It also prevents people from seeking the help they need. Just like you go to a doctor for a yearly check-up, checking in with a therapist on your mental state is just as important. If you have diabetes, can you just pretend it’s not there and hope it goes away? Of course not. That would be deadly. Mental illness can be just as debilitating if not treated.
Reason #3: There is strength in numbers
When has a problem ever been solved by simply keeping quiet about it? Talking openly about mental illness and sharing your own personal struggles brings awareness and in some cases policy change. Not everyone is going to act kindly to you sharing your story, but in most cases, it’s simply because they don’t understand. You can either agree to disagree or choose to educate them about mental illness.
Reason #4: You can help someone with a mental illness even if you don’t have all of the answers
Avoid trying to be the hero. Unless you’ve devoted years of your life to studying mental illness, the best you can do for someone suffering is to listen. You can also urge them to speak to a professional if you notice major changes in their behavior such as staying in bed all day or skipping all social activities.
Reason #5 Prevention
If you know the signs and symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses, you can take early steps to get healthy. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, exercise and make time for things that truly make you happy. If you feel dark, depressive thoughts creeping in, don’t ignore them. Talk to someone. Isolation will only make those feelings worse.
Nearly 8 million adults in the U.S. have a co-occurring disorder which is a substance use disorder and mental illness. Cumberland Heights staff is highly trained to treat patients with a dual diagnosis. We believe tackling both the addiction and mental illness decreases risk of relapse and in turn decrease feelings of depression and anxiety.