Cue the confetti canons, folks…
BECAUSE IT’S MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH!
I know, I know. It seems like an odd thing to be excited about, but awareness is everything.
Mental illness is unbelievably isolating, and the lingering stigma that wafts like a rancid stench throughout homes, schools, and workplaces cause people battling mental illness to believe that they are broken or weak. But that isn’t true! Not even a little bit.
In October we all wear pink and celebrate the courage and strength of those who battle breast cancer. And rightfully so! These breast cancer warriors are brave and beautiful and so, so strong. The slogans “Fight like a girl” and “Big or small, let’s save them all” are catchy and adorable and empowering. Even people who don’t personally know anyone with breast cancer join in the solidarity and support the fight. It’s beautiful. And THAT is what I want for mental illness warriors.
According to the CDC, in 2016 (the last year for which data is available) 41,487 women died from breast cancer. In the same year 47,173 people died from suicide. These numbers are alarmingly similar. I don’t share this data to minimize the trials and tragedy of breast cancer, but rather to highlight the severity and mortality rate of mental illness in the United States.
Awareness Can Save Lives
I genuinely believe that with more awareness and resources, we could save many of those lives. If a person knows that they’re not broken, just ill, and they have the medical and social resources to turn to… it changes everything. My mental illness first presented itself when I was 10 years old. My parents noticed that there was a problem and immediately took action. As a result, a year later I was seeing a psychiatrist, beginning antidepressants, and switching schools. I was blessed to grow up in a home where the stigma around mental illness didn’t really exist. I think that’s part of why I’m such an open book about my disorders. Not being afraid to seek help. Beginning treatment early. Having a loving support system. These things Saved. My. Life.
And that, my friend, is why I want to make the month of May BIG. I want green ribbons and brain shaped stickers, T-shirt’s with cheeky slogans that promote awareness, mental health frames on everyone’s Facebook profile pictures. And most of all… I want love. I want that fiery, robust kind of love that literally saves lives. 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental condition in any given year. That means that even if you don’t have any kind of mental illness, you absolutely do know and love someone who does. Guaranteed.
So speak up. Speak out. It’s time to rally. Take this mental health month as an opportunity to offer love and support to those 20% of your friends and family who are battling a chronic, and sometimes terminal, disease. Depression and anxiety may be invisible, but please make sure that these people in your life know that you see them. You hear them. You love them. And that they are never ever alone.