The first week of October marked the 19th annual mental illness awareness week. Awareness and education is imperative in decreasing the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 26% of adults suffer from a diagnosed mental disorder in a given year. Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44. Although many people struggle with mental health conditions, there is still a stigma about psychological difficulties.
What is mental illness? For me, this is a hard question. Is anyone mentally “ill”? Or, are symptoms of psychiatric conditions signs that someone is in distress, psychologically or emotionally? It seems as if calling various psychiatric diagnoses as “illnesses” perpetuates the stigma of mental health conditions. Maintaining this stigma can prohibit people with psychological distress from speaking out and seeking help. It’s important for people to feel comfortable talking about emotional or psychological issues in order to get the treatment they need.
Even though there is much more awareness about mental health in our society today, some still tend to shy away from those in psychological distress, viewing them as weak in some way. But, it’s important to remember that we all struggle in our lives and have times when we are emotionally distressed. Having psychological or emotional difficulties doesn’t mean someone is weak; it can be a signal that you are struggling with something emotionally painful or stressful. Mental conditions may also have biological origins, especially diagnoses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
No matter the cause, it’s important to seek help and support when dealing with mental health issues. Psychotherapy and medication can be very helpful. Family members may also benefit from therapy or support groups. In therapy, you can learn how to manage symptoms, deal with stress of life, and explore the possible reasons behind your feelings or symptoms. You may also find other support through your local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for local groups or other educational and support programs. Here is the website for the Texas NAMI chapter: http://www.namitexas.org.
Finding the right treatment and support is important. Overcoming mental health conditions is possible. Don’t let a diagnosis of a psychological condition run your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health condition, seeking treatment can be the first step on the road to recovery.