The stigma that continues to surround mental illness may leave many feeling different or less than others. In reality, mental illnesses are not only all too common, but there is an evident increase in the amount of people who will be diagnosed in this lifetime. Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (51.5 million in 2019). Though this number is insurmountable and one would assume that those who experience mental health problems would receive the care necessary to manage it, estimates suggest that only half of people with mental illnesses receive treatment. Resources are still too limited and too far out of reach for many Americans.
Not Just "In Your Head"
Mental illness is not just “in your head.” Many mental illnesses can manifest into physical symptoms if left untreated. For example, anxiety can cause nausea, rapid breathing and shaking. People with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population. Through treatment and precautions, one can manage and even control mental illnesses. For some, it may be beneficial to take medication to manage symptoms. By going to a psychiatrist, they can help to determine the right medication for you. Another crucial way to manage mental illness is by talking to someone, whether it be a professional or a friend or a family member, getting your feelings out in the open and sorting through your thoughts with someone else can be incredibly relieving. Exercise, meditation, a healthy diet, less alcohol, or helping others are all great ways to alleviate mental illness symptoms. When struggling with mental illness, even the simplest tasks can seem the most daunting, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Take each day as they come and choose at least one way to benefit your mental health every day.
Signs and Solutions
Most importantly, talk about it. The stigma surrounding mental illness has resulted in many people staying silent on their condition, but by being open about our experiences, helps to normalize and destigmatize them. If we are open with each other and can share our experiences, we will make it easier for the next person to seek help. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 in the U.S. but it doesn’t have to be this way. Foremost, take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. It’s not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide—it’s a cry for help. Other warning signs may be seeking out lethal means, preoccupation with death, no hope for the future, self-loathing or hatred, getting affairs in order or saying goodbye, withdrawing, self-destructive behavior, or a sudden sense of calm. Be aware of these signs, not only in others, but within ourselves. If we stop behaviors before they manifest into something more, we can control and recognize these feelings. If someone comes to you for support, offer sympathy and be non-judgemental, listen, be yourself, offer hope and take them seriously.
If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, phone your country’s emergency services number (911 in the U.S.), or take the person to an emergency room. We can all help prevent suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling, call 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.