Tomorrow marks the last day of Mental Health Awareness Week 2015. It is our hope that people will continue to keep mental health in mind throughout the rest of the year. Though physical health problems are perhaps more easily visible from a distance, those who have experienced mental health illness or who have had loved ones struggle with their mental health know that when the mind is in distress, it can be just as damaging as when the body is suffering.
According to NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), approximately one in five adults experiences mental health illness in a given year (NAMI’s website). The effects of these illnesses are no less tangible and serious than those of physical illnesses. Mental illnesses can lead to other problems such as a higher dropout rate for students, eating disorders, unemployment, and suicide, among many other consequences. The good news is that these situations can be prevented with the right care and compassion. If everyone started considering mental health disorders more seriously and taking steps to treat them, we would be better off as a society. Part of this process will include leaving the ostracizing pain of stigma behind, a main message of the Mental Health Awareness campaign for this year. Their theme is #IAmStigmaFree; you can take a pledge online here to commit to educating yourself about and spreading awareness of mental health issues.
We can actively stride to create a world where health is viewed more holistically, taking into consideration the mind-body connection that we all share. We would be wise to pay close attention to both our minds and our bodies so that we can recognize and start treating the problems within before they become severe. Too often we don’t think about our stomach until it hurts and we don’t think about our mental health until we’re depressed. And too often we’re afraid to ask for help when we need it the most. Let’s try to check in with ourselves and with each other more often and not be afraid to answer honestly when people ask us, “How are you doing?”