Some days are easy. You don’t feel any different from anyone else. You can function like a “normal” person should. Some days are crippling. It may seem all-consuming. Some days are in between. It feels as though you are constantly at odds with yourself. Struggling between being productive or simply surviving the day. It’s a difficult balance and one that is not easy to find for many of us. On top of that, this is only one of many different and diverse scenarios of what it’s like to live with a mental illness.
This week of October 3-9 is Mental Illness Awareness Week. It is not an easy subject to discuss, however it affects millions every day. So why is it that even today, it is still rather taboo to openly discuss mental illness? Perhaps it is because a mental illness presents itself in a vastly different way than a physical one? Or maybe it’s the symptoms a person experiences that make everyone else around them uncomfortable? The glamorization of mental illness by the media has not helped ease the conversation very much. It has mainly helped in further perpetuating stereotypes.
So, what would help to open the conversation? Awareness begins with education. Do some research online, read a book, or talk to friends or family you know who are struggling with a mental illness. Approach the subject with an open mind and plenty of understanding because it is not an easy thing to discuss. Be open-minded because it is a difficult concept to grasp when you’re not experiencing it. Be understanding because it is difficult to open up and share a vulnerable aspect of your life.
It is also important to approach the subject with thoughtfulness when listening and having respect for what they have to say. Lastly, be sincere because you never really know what someone else is going through, especially in regard to mental illness.
Awareness includes care- whether it is self-care or care for others. Self-care is integral when dealing with a mental illness. Doing mundane things like eating, showering, or taking medication can seem hard or pointless, but they are important to your health. Self-care can also include things like going outside for a stroll, eating fruit, maybe having a spa day, or spending time with friends and family. Whatever it is, so long as it is a healthy outlet that is beneficial to you and your mental illness. When caring for others, remind them to do self-care. Check in with them to see how they are doing.
Finally, awareness includes support. Be supportive of those with mental illnesses, especially when it is a loved one. If it seems too grandeur a task to help, simply let them know how much you love them. Sometimes simply being there is enough. Offer your company or even a shoulder to cry on if need be. And if it’s you who is suffering from a mental illness, please reach out to your loved ones and/or seek professional help. Get all the support you need.
Please take care of yourselves and each other this Mental Illness Awareness Week.
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