If someone breaks their arm, we take it seriously. If someone gets burned, we take that seriously too. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, we rally around them and offer support and comfort.
We go to the doctor, try to find a solution and cure whatever is wrong. Physical illnesses are nothing to take lightly and I am not trying to downplay the severity of physical illnesses.
But what happens when someone is having a hard time mentally? We tell them to get over it, or we tell them it’s all in their head. All too often we do not treat mental illness with the same seriousness as we treat physical illnesses.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five Americans, including both children and adults, deal with some sort of mental illness every year. Of all the people you might interact with every day, one-fifth of them could be fighting a battle inside themselves that you know little or nothing about. Remember that when interacting with other people each day. Perhaps you are one of those who is suffering, and you wish that other people understood or that you knew where to go for help.
If you are not dealing with a mental illness yourself, chances are you know someone who is. Young people between the ages of 15-29 are particularly vulnerable, especially those in college. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among preteens, teens and adults, and most people suffering from a mental illness have been suffering with it for years.
Despite most people knowing about mental illnesses, there still does not seem to be a good way to address what so many people are facing on a daily basis. Within families and communities, we often feel ashamed when talking about our illness and instead keep quiet because mental illness is not easy to fix.
There is no prescription a doctor can write that can eradicate or cure mental illness. It’s not something we can “just get over” or “try harder to be happy about.” It’s not that simple.
Instead, we need to treat those suffering from mental illnesses with the same compassion and fragility of those suffering from a physical illness.
Mental health currently does not receive enough federal aid; instead, nearly 800,000 people each year, worldwide, kill themselves because they have been shamed into believing that mental illness is their problem and their problem alone. Instead of looking into ways to fund aid for the millions of people suffering from some sort of mental illness, the current president of the United States is more concerned with building a wall between the United States and Mexico.
Our nation’s leaders are ignoring the fact that an unacceptable number of people are dying every year because of suicide. Instead, our leaders need to allocate more money for research in mental illnesses and focus on educating everyone, young and old, about it. This should include therapy, treatment facilities and counseling that are accessible to everyone, not just those who are fortunate enough to be able to afford it.
In the meantime, I want to encourage everyone to choose kindness. Be kind toward others but especially with yourself. There are so many people facing silent battles daily, which they are too ashamed to talk about. Take the time out of your day to take care of yourself physically, but most importantly, mentally.