May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Green ribbons worn this month are a reminder of those afflicted with brain health issues. I like to think of it more in terms of “brain health.” The word “mental” so often has a stigma attached to it. What we are talking about is part of our body. “The brain” is like any other part of our body. A health issue involving the brain should be treated no different than any other health problem. Therefore, I propose we let the green ribbon symbolize growth. We need to grow in our understanding and compassion towards those who struggle with this affliction.
Being a part of a family plagued by mental health issues, I would like the world to extend the same compassion, understanding, and grace they extend people with other physical health issues.
Why Mental Health Awareness Month began
One of the reasons Mental Health Awareness Month began was to change the stigma associated with mental illness. The Dictionary defines stigma as “a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.” Would we view someone with cancer in such a negative way? No, we would never do that. We wouldn’t judge someone because they were afflicted with any physical disease or ailment. We would extend compassion, understanding, and grace to such a person.
In reality, most of us are personally affected by these issues in some way or another. It touches our own life or those we work with, live with and love. According to the Center for Disease Control, “25 % of all US adults have a mental illness, and 50 percent of US adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime.”
Some important statistics about mental health to consider
Mary Gilbert, CEO of NAMI(National Alliance on Mental Illness) says, “Sixty million people in the United States face the day-to-day reality of living with a mental illness and every American is affected through their friends and family.” Mental Health Month is a time for us all to come together, to inspire people, raise awareness and become involved so we can build better lives for millions of people with mental illness.”
The most important thing is to encourage people who struggle to get help sooner rather than later.
Some helpful mental health screening tools
This can come in handy for you or a loved one to be able to assess mental health and get information, tools, and resources to direct you or those you care about on a path toward wellness.
Overlooking or minimizing your own personal struggles or those of your loved ones can be dangerous. With a skyrocketing suicide rate in this country, it is not something worth risking. Believe me, as a mom, who has lost my very own precious son to suicide, I wish I realized this reality sooner.
Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death in the US, with over 40,000 deaths per year. It is the 2nd leading cause of death for youth, ages 15-24, with boys being at even higher risk. Even knowing these statistics, I never thought it would happen to my son. We hear these statistics and hear of bad things happening to others, but so often we think that would never happen to us. Don’t deceive yourself. It can happen to anyone at any time. Be wise.
“Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined.” (AFSP)
According to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined. There is no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide.”
The best prevention of this tragedy is through early detection and treatment of depression and other mental health conditions.
Another important prevention measure is making sure you lock away firearms so they are not easily accessible. This is especially important in times of sadness, depression, and despair. A shocking statistic is that 50% of suicides have resulted from the use of a firearm. Therefore risk is dramatically increased when a person in a hopeless state of mind has access to a gun. Often, suicide is an impulsive act in a time of distress that one cannot see past. Having access to such a lethal way to act on this intense feeling and pain in a moment of despair is dangerous.
If you or a loved one ever feel like you need to talk to someone, call 1-800-273-TALK.
I recommend putting this number in your cell phone contacts. Then you have it if you ever need it for yourself, a friend or family member.
For those who feel more comfortable with online chat, you can visit www.hopeline.com. Here you can have access to a live 24hr/day network of trained professionals that can help. They provide this service to offer a safe place to go during moments of intense emotional pain.
All the mental health resources I have given here are free, available 24hrs a day and completely anonymous.
Hopefully, this has given you some important things to think about and some helpful resources for those struggling and not knowing where to start in getting help. It is important to talk about these things openly with family and friends to reduce the shame and silent suffering of those who are struggling. We need to be able to encourage one another that there is great hope in recovery. Depression isn’t and doesn’t have to to be a terminal illness. Bringing it out in the open and seeking help is the first step toward recovery.
Finally, I leave you with this video that helps give an understanding of depression. It includes practical tips about how to journey through it. There is hope for better days ahead.
Wishing you hope and joy in your journey,
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