Mental illness. What comes to mind #punintended when hearing those words might be a fairly accurate indicator of what level of mental illness awareness you actually have.
“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.” –Glenn Close
The stigma of silence.
Whether directly or indirectly, mental health issues impact every single one of us. Every year 1 in 20 adults in the U.S. experience serious mental illness. Only two-thirds of them get treatment. Why is there still so much stigma surrounding mental health issues if so many of us are struggling in this area?
I think it’s because so much of what surrounds mental health is unseen. And it’s hard to be aware of things you can’t see.
You can’t see a head full of darkness.
People tend to associate mental health struggles with a certain time of year, or even particular triggering events. I know many of my own struggles with mental health have happened in the midst of dealing with grief and loss. But mental illness awareness shouldn’t just be limited to a specific time of the year or even a specific manifestation of mental health struggles.
Every single struggle matters, and is worthy of our attention and care.
“It is an odd paradox that a society, which can now speak openly and unabashedly about topics that were once unspeakable, still remains largely silent when it comes to mental illness.” –Glenn Close
Resources to give help and hope.
The good news is that there is help and hope for those struggling with mental illness. But if we’re being silent and not talking about it, then the awareness that can lead to hope remains out of reach for the people that need it most. There’s no help and hope if we’re not hearing the voices of those wrestling with mental illness.
“The mentally ill frighten and embarrass us, and so we marginalize the people that most need our acceptance.” –Glenn Close
Are you wondering why I’ve quoted Glenn Close so much? Well I’m a huge fan of her work as an actress, but I’m an even bigger fan of her work to destigmatize mental illness. She founded Bring Change to Mind in 2010. Their mission is to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness by creating multimedia campaigns, curating storytelling movements, and developing youth programs to encourage a diverse cultural conversation around mental health.
The National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) believes in the importance of discussing mental health conditions year-round. Highlighting them during Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) provides an opportunity for mental health advocates from across the country to come together in one unified voice. In 1990, Congress officially established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week, and runs this year from October 3-9.
Here are some additional events that coincide with Mental Illness Awareness Week:
- Tuesday, Oct. 5: National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding
- Thursday, Oct. 7: National Depression Screening Day
- Saturday, Oct. 9: NAMIWalks United Day of Hope
- Sunday, Oct. 10: World Mental Health Day
All NAMI programs are offered at no cost. You can click here for information on the Miami-Dade chapter of the National Association of Mental Illness.
Awareness grows when we listen.
I’m not a licensed counselor or mental health professional. I’m just someone who has walked through mental health struggles throughout my life. Being seen and heard has made all the difference in the world in my journey of healing.
If you have family and friends that struggle with mental illness, your support means more than you will ever know. Look in their eyes as you listen to their stories. Be in it with them in whatever way you can as they journey towards healing. It’s okay if you don’t quite know what to say. Your presence and knowing that you are there is what matters most.
Caring for those with mental health issues can be very isolating and exhausting. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself just as much as you’re caring for your friends and family.
If you currently find yourself in a place where that darkness in your head and heart is simply too much to bear, please tell someone. Reach out to those in your life who care for you. You can reach out in the comment section below too. Your struggles with mental illness matter. You are seen, valued, and loved so very much.
“To let those that might feel marginalized or silenced by stigma become part of a group and accepted will save lives. Period.” –Glenn Close