Nearly 20% of Americans will struggle with a mental health diagnosis in any given year, and roughly half will struggle at some point in their lifetimes. With suicide listed as the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34, we can not ignore the problem. It’s time to discuss how to bring mental health awareness to your environment.
The History of Discussion Regarding Mental Health
Not so long ago, the topic of mental health was “off-limits.” People say, “The two topics you don’t discuss are politics and religion.” That same idea of openly discussing struggles with mental health has long been considered taboo. Those who suffered often suffered in silence.
Even today, it’s stated that less than half of people will get the professional help they need to treat a mental health disorder. Among other reasons, the stigma surrounding mental illness is a significant factor in the low rate of treatment.
High Profile Suicides Have Caught Public Attention
In the past few years alone, there have been many celebrity suicides that have captured the public’s attention, changing the way we view mental health disorders. Many people have come to realize that no one is immune to mood and thought disorders, despite the level of fame, success, or wealth that they’ve achieved.
From the most uplifting actors such as Robin Williams to the famed designer Kate Spade, the musical prodigy Avicii and Linkin Park band member Chester Bennington, many great lives have been lost to mental illness.
How YOU Can Bring Mental Health Awareness to Your Environment
The single best way to bring mental health awareness to your environment is to open a dialogue surrounding the issue. The more we, as a society, openly discuss the problem, the more comfortable people will feel letting others know when they are not okay.
Acknowledge When Others are Struggling
Something as simple as acknowledging someone who has expressed that they are or have struggled is a great start. It’s human nature to keep what we consider to be our less desirable traits hidden from the rest of the world.
But if someone at work says, “I’ve been struggling with my anxiety lately,” and you can relate, try to respond. Saying, “I’ve been there, I understand how you feel,” can be extremely helpful.
We must validate the feelings of those who are struggling. If you let someone know that you, too, have struggled with a condition such as anxiety or depression, it’s less likely that they will feel so alone.
The worst thing to do is to let someone struggle in silence, thinking that there’s something “wrong” with them that others haven’t felt.
Know the Signs and Symptoms and Let Others Know Too
A lot of times, you’ll hear someone say, “I never knew they were struggling,” in response to a suicide, psychiatric hospitalization, or another significant mental health event. The reason people may not realize others are struggling is that the symptoms can be hard to spot.
Educate yourself on the less visible signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, and discuss them with others.
If you notice that someone is exhibiting the signs, don’t just brush it off. Don’t be afraid to ask people if they’re okay. Don’t be scared to let people know you’re there for them, even if you feel like you don’t know them that well. It’s better to say something now than regret not saying something later.
If you’re struggling with a mental health disorder in the United States, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for treatment resources and community support.
The United States National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 for anyone in emotional distress or suicidal crisis: 1-800-273-8255