Imagine you’re at the park with your small child who takes a nasty spill off of some playground equipment. You rush to the child and can immediately see a bone is broken. What do you do next? Try to get the child to meditate? Tell them to suck it up, that they’ll be fine? Say it’s not that bad? Or do you seek proper medical attention promptly?
While the example may seem extreme, it’s past time we treated mental illness with the same urgency and care as visible injury. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness in their lifetime. That is a large amount of people and more than likely you will know someone or be that someone.
So what’s the problem? Stigma surrounding mental illness still exists hurting not only those receiving treatment but can prevent people who need it from seeking care. Another challenge is mental illness is not a visible disability so it makes it even harder for those who don’t understand mental illness or haven’t experienced it firsthand have a hard time grasping it.
What can you do? Stop stigma with your words and actions. Show empathy and sincere concern if someone disclosed their mental illness. Don’t participate in gossip or speculation about family, friends or colleagues who may be suffering.
The bottom line is mental illness is a disease that can successfully be treated and managed. To those who need help: There is nothing shameful about seeing a therapist and psychiatrist. Whatever your care team looks like is ok. Getting support and help is the right choice, a smart choice that will aid in your recovery. To those supporting someone with mental illness: listen, don’t be judgmental, don’t try to fix your person, talk to them and ask what they need.
Together we can overcome stigma and educate about mental illness. Mental health matters! Need help? GET HELP!