Changing the conversation on mental health for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September 26, 2017

Understanding the complexities of mental health is the first step to changing your perception

Sadly, the way we perceive mental health issues often prevents those affected from seeking professional help. The stigma we have around diseases such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder creates a misconception that something must be wrong with the individual who is suffering from a mental health condition.. However, this view is flawed. If we apply that same logic to diseases such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s, would we have the same stigma? The fact is, mental illness should be perceived for exactly what it is, an illness. Those who suffer from disorders often avoid seeking help because of they fear a negative response from their community. If we start changing the way we think of individuals with mental illnesses and start addressing the illness itself, it may pave the way for people to seek the help they need and deserve.

Understanding mental illness is the first step to changing the way we think and talk about it. Here are some things you should know:

Mental illness affects millions of people. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness. That equates to over 40 million Americans who may benefit from access to professional help. 

There are physical health issues, too. We know that certain foods can contribute to stress, and we also know that exercise can improve mental health. Therefore, the link between mental and physical health cannot be ignored. Mental illnesses should be viewed and thought of in the same way as high blood pressure, diabetes, and health conditions. That is, we should separate the illness from the individual and focus on treating it.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
One of the most common reasons someone may not seek professional help is fear and shame. It’s no secret that someone with a mental illness is thought of differently. Another reason individuals may not seek help is because they don’t want others to perceive them as having something “wrong” with them. Seeing the person behind the disease is key to changing the conversation around mental health. This goes for both those afflicted and those who aren’t. 

Treatment is available.
Often, those with mental illness don’t know the full extent of their disease or their loved ones are hesitant to acknowledge that professional help might be in order. Education is crucial to understanding the importance of treatment. A mental health professional should be able to examine a patient’s symptoms and recommend tests, assessments and a way to move forward. 

Everyone plays a part. We can all make a difference in changing the way we perceive mental health. Start small by adjusting the way you speak about it. Avoid labeling behaviors. Just because someone doesn’t like their rice to touch their broccoli on their dinner plate doesn’t make them OCD and just because someone changes their mind often doesn’t make them schizophrenic. Also, practicing understanding and supporting your loved ones by recommending professional treatment will go a long way. 

Mental health is a serious issue, and we all need to get involved. If you or someone you know should seek help, contact a medical provider today.

Topics: Wellness, Services