Did you know that the first week of October is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW)? First officially implemented by Congress in 1990, MIAW was established to help increase awareness and understanding and decrease stigma about mental illness. NAMI (aka National Alliance on Mental Illness) is promoting the theme CureStigma for MIAW 2018. One in five Americans is affected by a mental health condition. That's 20% of the individuals in this nation. And the majority of them are shamed into silence about their burden. TWENTY PERCENT! Do you realize how many people you interact with everyday who may be suffering in silence? Stigma about mental health issues exacerbates a culture of shame, fear, and guilt. This culture can prevent people from seeking the help and treatment, they desperately need to get better.
So, if you are in the 80%, you can help change the culture and decrease the stigma. Showing compassion and understanding to support someone in your life who may be suffering can be more influential than you can imagine. If you have a friend who family member who is suffering from a mental illness, you may be feeling lost as to what to do to help. But just being a consistent and empathic support person can go a long way. Asking appropriate questions, without pushing too hard, and listening-really listening-to what the other person is saying,are essential for supporting your loved one. Educating yourself about the diagnosis and potential treatment options is another way to demonstrate your support. Your [friend, sister, spouse, fill in the blank here] may not be ready to seek treatment now, but when they are, being knowledgeable and willing to help navigate the options could be tremendously helpful. Offer support, even if just for normal, mundane life tasks. Sometimes the basic daily tasks can be really difficult to accomplish for someone suffering from debilitating anxiety or depression. Accepting help from someone they trust, can allow that person the energy to focus on taking care of themselves. Most importantly, be respectful and understanding, even when it may be difficult. Mental illness symptoms, like medical symptoms, can be out of an individuals control and they may need your help to be able to improve those symptoms. A little support can go a long way. And be kind to those around you-we don't always know what struggles someone is working through.
For more resources on supporting someone with e mental health diagnosis, check out these links:
How to Help a Loved One with Mental Illness
Tips for How to help a Person with Mental Illness
Supporting a Friend or Family Member with Mental Health Problems