May is an important month for me.
It’s the month I got clean in 2010, the month I was released from 9 months in jail in 2011, and the month when I was finally released from a 5 year probation that prohibited me from leaving the country (among other regulations) in 2016. Get ready for my annual posts on those as we continue through the month.
May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, and after entering recovery from addiction, breaking cycles of disordered eating and exercise, and finally being clinically diagnosed with depression and anxiety, it’s safe to say that it holds a special place in my heart. It’s a month dedicated to raising awareness around mental health and fighting to remove the stigma chronically associated with it.
In the spirit of Mental Health Month, here are some ways that you can help support those who live with mental health issues on a regular basis.
Educate yourself about mental illness. Learn about different types of mental illness, warning signs, misconceptions, and that nearly 1 in 25 (10 million) Americans live with a serious mental health illness.
A lot of the stigma surrounding mental illness comes from misinformation or simply a lack of information. Educating yourself will help show support, especially if you aren’t part of that 1 in 25.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) — Learn More
- Mental Health America — Mental Health Information
If you’re someone who lives with a mental illness, talk about it. I can’t tell you how important this step is in combating the stigma surrounding mental health. According to Mirriam-Webster, stigma is defined as “a mark of shame or discredit.” The best way to discredit something is to provide examples to the contrary. I can tell you that I live with depression and anxiety and while both can cause rough times, they in no way stop me from living my best life. #YOLO
The more we talk about it, the more others can identify and relate in. Ultimately, we all want to belong to something and there’s nothing that can feel as alienating as a mental illness.
If you’re not comfortable sharing your own story publicly, at least talk about it with someone you know or a trusted mental health professional. There are also sites where you are able to anonymously share your story:
The next time you want to describe someone as “crazy” or talk about how addicted you are to a new show on TV, stop for a second and think about what you’re actually saying.
Throwing around that you’re “addicted” to something is one of the few that I have heard over and over again and obviously have the most intense reaction to. I’ve known people to say that they are addicted to certain foods and that not having them will make them go through withdrawals. My first reaction is “oh really? Do you find yourself in cold sweats, vomiting, unable to sleep, and battling a compulsion to drag yourself back to something that can both kill you and ease those symptoms at the same time?” It may sound dramatic, but THAT is what actual addiction feels like. Not the fact that you eat a whole bag of candy in one sitting.
I understand the meaning behind these phrases and many others, but if you think about how they may impact people who suffer from things like OCD or suicidal ideations (to name a few), you may be able to see how damaging they can be.
I admit that I’m guilty of this on occasion, and it’s important for me to take a step back and not generalize or oversimplify what could be a struggle for someone else. Many who use these types of phrases are not doing it maliciously, but simply out of ignorance which can be remedied by learning more about mental illness.
I’d also like to share some of my most popular mental health posts below. If any help you or may help someone else, I kindly ask you to share.
- There’s Always A Reason, But It May Not Be What You Think
- The Positive Side of Depression
- 10 Changes After I Started Antidepressant Medication
- My Project Semicolon Experience
- Why My Mental Health Is Just As Important As My Physical Health
- How To Know If You Need Professional Help
- How To Approach Mental Health From Both Perspectives
- What To Expect From Therapy
- When Depression Comes Back
- My Experience With Starting Antidepressants