Mental Health Month brings awareness this May

By Jalyn Bolyard, Online Editor

Ever since 1949, May has been observed as Mental Health Month. Mental Health America (MHA) began the recognition, and each year, MHA and multiple other organizations come together to educate, bring awareness and fight the stigma.

A different theme is picked for Mental Health Awareness Month every year, and this year’s theme is “Risky Business.” This focuses on habits or behaviors that could increase the risk of developing a mental illness. For more information, feel free to visit MHA’s website.

This is an important month because mental health affects everyone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one out of five U.S. adults will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, and 75 percent of mental health conditions form before one is 24. So, although a person may not be personally affected, it’s highly likely that everyone knows a family member or friend that’s impacted by mental illness. Therefore, this issue is paramount as it really does affect everyone.

People react to events differently, and the same goes with mental illness. One person’s depression isn’t the same as someone else’s. However, looking at those numbers above, it’s important to note that one is never alone.

According to NAMI, some warning signs include excessive worrying, excessive feelings of sadness, problems concentrating, extreme mood changes, avoiding friends, changes in sleeping and eating habits, difficulty perceiving reality, abusing alcohol or drugs, thinking about suicide and the inability to carry out daily activities.

If you think you may have a mental illness, be honest with how you’re feeling. Talk to a family member, friend, coach, professor, counselor or a trusted adult. Don’t let how you’re feeling build up; there is no shame in asking for or receiving help, I promise. When you’re ready, ask your primary doctor about making a specialist appointment. If the first appointment doesn’t go well, don’t be scared to try another specialist. There’s no treatment that works for everybody.

If you want to help a friend or family member, just remind them you’re there for them. Offer support, but also know to be patient. Sometimes, one can find it hard to open up, and that’s okay. Just remind them you are there for them, check on them often and continue to invite them to events. Remind them that they’re not alone and that their illness doesn’t change how you feel for them. Simply asking, “What can I do?” can mean a lot. Once they start to talk, remember to really listen and don’t be judgemental.

It’s important to learn about mental illness because if left untreated, it can lead to disastrous results. According to MHA, 30,000 Americans die by suicide each year while an additional 500,000 attempt suicide. 30 to 40 percent of people who complete suicide have tried before. Why? MHA states that the most common underlying disorder is depression with 30 to 70 percent of suicide victims suffering from major depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder. Suicide is never talked about until it happens, and that’s a part of the problem.

I know several people who have attempted or completed suicide. I promise you, suicide is never, ever the answer. A solution is there, even if it’s hard to see. I know it’s cliche to say “it’ll get better,” but I promise, it’s the truth. If you need someone to talk to, I’m more than willing to listen and I know others will, too. Don’t forget that WLU has free, confidential counseling for students. You can learn more about that here.

This May, remember those voices that are silent and those who don’t have to be.

Don’t ever feel ashamed or guilty for how you’re feeling. Just remember: You are not alone, it’s okay and it will get better.

Photo credit: National Alliance on Mental Illness