Someone you know is battling mental illness. Yes, even if they have not told you.
And when I say battling…I truly mean it.
They are battling because they feel alone.
They are battling because they are afraid to open up.
They are battling because no one seems to understand.
Over the years, I have had friends and family open up to me about their experience with mental illness. To say I was shocked would be an understatement.
I have known these people for years and had no idea that they were battling.
After these encounters I started to ask myself a lot of questions:
1.Why did they JUST open up to me?
I am no expert on mental illness. Just need to put that out there. However, I noticed a few similarities among situations where individuals open up to me.
People seem to open up when they feel comfortable.
When they know no matter what they tell you that you will still accept them.
There is a big problem here.
The way our society talks about mental illness places such a stigma. The fact that individuals dealing with mental illness fear acceptance is ridiculous. If I was to tell you that I had a problem with my heart, would the stigma be there? What about my kidneys? What about my blood pressure? Yet, what if I was to tell you I am battling anxiety everyday? Depression?
Why do we have the bias? Why are we afraid to talk about mental illness?
I believe it is the way society talks about mental illness.
We are afraid to empathize.
2.How can I help now?
I think the best way to help now is to empathize.
Educate yourself on the issue.
Read up on stories of individuals facing mental illness.
Try to place yourself in the shoes of your friend or family member. Let your friend, family member, or even stranger know that you are there. Let them know that you understand the reality of mental illness and that there is no need to be afraid.
If they have not seen a healthcare professional remind them of the importance of that step.
Praise them for their courage in opening up to you.
3.Did I really listen?
Think about your encounters with individuals who opened up to you. Were there moments where they tried to open up yet you shut them out?
Were you so preoccupied with your own life you could not see the pain in their eyes?
I ask myself this question in order to do better in the future. Reflection is essential in making improvements in how we as a society approach mental illness.
“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation about illnesses that affect not only individuals, but their families as well.”
To all my readers battling mental illness. I want to let you know that you are not alone. It may seem scary to open up but through it we can educate the world. I pray that through the storm you find peace and stillness.