Another month of 2017 is coming to a close. It’s hard to believe this year is nearly halfway over (seeing as it feels like it’s gone on for four years already), but here we are. For nearly 70 years, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in order to fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for care. At the beginning of May, I knew I would post something in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, but I wasn’t sure where to start or what to say.
Mental health and mental health awareness have been causes close to my heart for as long as I can remember. I have written about them both before, and I have been an avid supporter of TWLOHA for many years, but for some reason I struggled to write another post. And then, a few weeks ago, I learned that a friend of mine died by suicide. I was stunned. I still am. We worked together over a few summers and had seen each other on occasion outside of that, but we hadn’t kept in touch otherwise. And just like that, he was gone. Every memory of my friend centers around his warm smile, his joy at working with children, and his kind, gentle soul. It is impossible to believe that the world has kept spinning without my friend and his infectious laugh.
Around 1 in 5 people in the world suffer from mental illness (including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and more) during their lifetime. No one’s story with mental illness is the same. Some struggle their whole lives, while others may only be affected for a brief time. Medication and counseling work for certain people, but others might find relief in alternative medicine or a self-help plan. There are many different treatment options available, but there is no treatment that works for everyone. The bottom line: there is no “right” way to have or deal with mental illness. So, what do you do if you or someone you love suffers from mental illness.
“The point is, I think it makes a big difference knowing that there’s at least one person in the world that has your back. No matter what. I mean, it doesn’t have to be the same person for your entire life, but at least everybody deserves one someone.”
I urge you to bring awareness to mental health throughout the rest of the year too. Today is the last day of Mental Health Awareness Month, but we can still continue the conversation about mental health. How to get informed and be involved. How to be aware and take action.
Show up and talk to people.
Say what you need to say, even when it’s hard.
Be kind and honest.
It’s okay to struggle and it’s okay to be sick. (That’s what mental illness is, after all. An illness.) It’s also okay to seek help if, and when, you need it, and to encourage others to do the same. You are not weak or broken for getting help. You are strong, and there is always hope.
If you or someone you know are struggling with depression, mental illness, or suicidal thoughts, please reach out—to family, friends, mental health professionals, or crisis workers. In the United States and Canada, you can call the 24-hour, toll-free National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).