The first step to conquering any issue or problem is to talk about it. The problem is that this first step is often the hardest.
Thursday was World Mental Health Day. It was a day to highlight the importance of mental health, regardless of whether one is mentally healthy or lives with mental illness.
I wish that we could talk about mental illness in the same manner that we talk about other illnesses. I wish that mental illness was treated by both the medical community and the general public as other illnesses are.
But they aren’t. Mental illness is often maligned and used as blame for events that in reality has little or nothing to do with that event. It’s an easy out instead of taking a hard look at what is the real cause of the event.
We need to openly talk about mental illness as we would talk about other illnesses. We need to respect those who suffer and understand that their illness is no different than any other illness.
Until then, the idea of mental health will continue to be maligned and misunderstood.
When we talk about our health, we usually talk about our physical health. We don’t talk about our mental health. While discussions about physical health are accepted as normal, discussions about mental health are still considered to be taboo.
I’ve been grappling with depression for quite a few years. It has been my unwanted constant companion for far too long. But even with my depression, I still count my blessings. Among those blessings is that my employer provides health insurance which allows me to receive treatment without completely emptying my wallet. Not everyone who wrestles with mental illness is fortunate enough to be able to seek treatment with a reasonable cost attached to it.
The problem, as I see it, is the stigma that comes with mental health problems. If someone for example, has heart disease, there is no question that they will go to the doctor and seek whatever treatment is required. But if someone has depression, anxiety, PTSD or any other form of mental illness, it’s almost like there is subtle snickering about seeking help. Some of us throw around words like bipolar or claim to be depressed when we are merely having a bad day, but they have no idea what the effect of those words are on someone who lives with mental illness.
My hope is that we can use this day to spread awareness and encourage at least one person who is suffering from mental health issues to seek help. It may just save their life.