Monday, May 2, 2016

See the Person #StigmaFree

There are certain illnesses that you can see.

You can see swelling, or difficulty breathing, or even symptoms of pain.

It's easy to diagnose these, easy to treat these, and with the right medications, the patient is on the mend quickly.

And then there are other illnesses that can't be seen... but they are just as painful. Maybe even more so.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month... an effort to bring to light better understanding about mental illness.

Mental illness is more common that you might think. Approximately 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13-18 experience a severe mental disorder at some point in their life.

1 in 5.
That means that on any given Wednesday night, we may have ten kids sitting at a table downstairs. Chances are, two of them will have some kind of mental health issue.

Scary stuff when they are all kids I love.

In our area, one of the largest problems is substance use. Over 50% of those affected by substance abuse had a co-occurring mental illness.

That makes treating the substance abuse harder. The patient is anxious, so they self-medicate. Depressed, so they self medicate. Angry and frustrated because they find themselves alone because their families are unable to support them because of their drug habit... so they self-medicate.

Addiction is real, and chances are it affects someone you know.

It destroys lives... but I can't help but think we have become too calloused to care.

Mental health illness leads to homelessness. Crime. 70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental condition.

They are doomed before they start.

And mental illness is undertreated. The stigma associated with mental illness makes it hard for a patient to seek help.

You're just faking. You just need to try harder. You just need to think happy thoughts. You just need to have more faith.

So, they sit quietly. They pretend there isn't anything wrong. They fake their way through life with a forced smile on their face until they can't fake anymore... can't take it anymore.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.,20 the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–2421 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.22

 The LEADING cause of death for teenagers and young adults.

Scary stuff.

Let's be aware of each other. Look each other in the eye. Ask how we're doing and really listen when someone responds. Offer our support.

People with mental illness don't always need answers. Sometimes, they just need presence.

That may be the only way they get peace of mind.

And let's be aware that different isn't always bad... that we should always seek to "see the person and not the illness" (NAMI).

Be stigma free.

My message of the week/month/year, it seems.

Love each other.

Visit for more information. All statistics from the NAMI website.

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