Mental Health Awareness Month
Maybe this month you have noticed green ribbons popping up on social media, and perhaps people have been posting more openly about their personal struggles. It's May, which also means it's Mental Health Awareness Month. The month of May was deemed Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States back in 1949. The Mental Health America organization started the campaign to help bring awareness to and decrees the stigma on mental health, and even to help normalize it.
An article in Psychology Today reported " Approximately one in five adults in the United States, 43.8 million, or 18.5%, experiences a mental illness in a given year and approximately one in five youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental health disorder at some point during their lifetime." These numbers may seem unrealistic to you, however many people go without help for their mental health due to the way so many people view it, stigmatize it, and push the topic to the side. In case you are unsure, stigma can be defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. In this case, we are talking about mental health. Yes, this still happens, to this day, and I whiteness it all the time. Working with teens struggling, their own stigma's about themselves or mental health, care takers who just ask their children things like "Why can't you just be happy?" and tell their children to "Just get over it." This is hurtful, harmful, and in no way shape or form helpful.
If you are struggling with mental health, I suggest challenging the stigma. If you have been reluctant to help, go seek help. Get the treatment and support you need. Don't allow a stigma to prevent you from seeking help and being able to live your life less worried, stressed, anxious, or depressed. Treatment can help identify the problem, reduce symptoms, and help you function better at home, work, and school. Don't see shame or defeat in a diagnosis, don't fall into the stigma trap. You are not defined by your mental illness, chronic illness, or any other illness for that matter. You may be saying "I am PTSD," but the truth is, you are your own, unique, beautiful self. Try instead saying "I have PTSD" see how it starts to help your mind shift. You are not your illness. By seeking help, counseling/therapy, support, you will gain insight into your condition, become educated, and gain more self-respect, confidence, and self-esteem.
Mental health does not discriminate, it doesn't care if about your gender, sex, race, religion, age, or anything else for that matter. Our mental health and physical health are connected. One can't be well without the other. Believe it or not, there are many things that have an effect on our overall health, mental and physical. Healthy sleep hygiene, exercise, gut health, eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, decreasing or avoiding stress.
Don't isolate, if you are struggling, find someone to ask for help. Stigma is toxic to mental health, it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment. It stops us from getting help, and in some cases, stigma is taking lives. The perception of mental illness won’t change unless collaboratively we act to change it.
How can we start to change the stigma associated with mental health? for starters, we can speak opening about it. We can become educated on the topic, and help educate others. We can try to be mindful about the way we say things, remember that old saying... "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all" it works here. Think before you speak, before you react, is what you are saying helpful, or harmful. Show more compassion, kindness, and empathy for others, and for yourself. Choose to be empowered rather than to hide behind shame, guilt, and fear. Be open and honest about your treatment and recovery. It's not always sunshine and rainbows, treatment is not linear, even though we wish it was. It's not always a quick fix. Don't hide behind the stigma, don't hide behind the fear, guilt, shame, or doubt. Ask for help, seek help, take control of your life.