De-stigmatizing Mental Illness
I, personally, feel very close to this issue. I have small children and live every day struggling with postpartum anxiety. I have since improved, but there are so many areas of my life that need improvement that it can seem overwhelming and even hopeless at times. I wonder if I will ever be able to live free from a racing heart, free from the anxiousness I feel when I leave my children with a babysitter, or free from constant guilt about every parenting decision that I make.
I actually first struggled with depression while I was a teenager. It was mild, but strong enough that I had to relearn how to take care of myself physically, mentally, and socially. Most of the time, my friends and family were very understanding towards me. But then again, I didn’t often talk about it and even would do my best to downplay the effects of it in my life. I did this because I had learned quickly that talking about my most difficult and complicated, and sometimes even vacant, feelings made others uncomfortable. Many people didn’t know how to respond, or would give suggestions that didn’t help.
Eventually, I went to counseling. As my feelings were being consistently validated, I slowly started to return to my former self- pre-depression. Now, I haven’t completely healed, but I have learned to live with and in spite of it.
One thing that really helped me- and continues to help me- combat my mental illness is my willingness to let go of the negative stigma associated with mental illness. There are many who have never dealt with true depression, even though they have had bad days. These people can sometimes “pep talk” themselves out of their funk and therefore assume that’s all it takes. While this tactic works for them, it doesn’t work for those who are dealing with a chronic problem.
While I am not a certified counselor or mental health practitioner, I would like to walk you through what I think are the best ways to destigmatize mental illness.
- Learn to talk about it. I know, it’s hard. I truly know. In fact, there were times when I had no idea that I was even dealing with anxiety. I thought that it was normal to have a panic attack when someone else was holding my baby. I thought that most moms feel guilt about everything they do with their child. I mean, I actually would feel guilty if I held my son a lot or not enough. There was nothing I could do to make myself feel better about my choices. It wasn’t until I started to talk to others about it that I learned that my illness was causing me unnecessary worry and influencing my life in big ways. I figured out that when I say something out loud about my feelings, without downplaying it, others would come out of the woodwork and talk about their experiences as well. These conversations were edifying for me and educational for those around me that weren’t dealing with the same issues.
- Seek help. Go to a counselor, a trusted friend, a religious leader. If you feel like talking to others who have struggled with it, search out a support group. You can often find them through mental health facilities in your area. The more people that are willing to get help, the more equipped they will be to help other people. This is great for our culture because it keeps the conversation going.
- Donate or volunteer for causes that are intended to raise awareness for mental health issues. Think of all of the physical health issues that have gained much better momentum because people were willing to fund research or awareness causes. This is the reason why I started writing this blog in the first place- I saw a need for myself and for the community to bring educational insights as well as provide a healthy outlet for myself while I continue to battle the symptoms of depression and anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has a great website where you can learn more about anxiety or depression, donate to their cause (they even tell you exactly what your donation will go toward!), or you can find other ways to help with their cause. This will help spread the word about mental health while also create a healthy and safe environment for people who are suffering.
If you or someone you love is suffering from a mental health problem just remember that there is help out there for you. You may feel broken, but there is so much hope for a better, more fulfilling life. I know, because I’ve suffered and sought help. If you are in a crisis and don’t have anywhere to turn, use these free crisis intervention platforms:
Text: Type START to 741-741 for a free crisis intervention specialist to help you. They do not replace counseling care, but they can help you come down from a crisis situation.
Call: 1-800-237-TALK (8255) which is a hotline for crisis intervention funded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Again, it does not replace counseling care, but it can help you during a time of immediate need.
Call: Clark County Crisis Line (800) 626-8137 or (360) 696-9560. The county’s crisis team is knowledgeable about the network of services available in the community and across the state and can match consumers to the specific service or program of care that best meets their needs.
Here at Lifeline Connections, we like to treat the entirety of your life. We see you as a person in need of help, and someone that is worth helping. We are here for all of your recovery needs, including counseling, pet therapy, art therapy, and many other strategies to help bring you peace and give you the right tools for a successful recovery. Please don’t hesitate to call or email us with your questions:
360-397-8246 ext. 7580 or email@example.com.