Mental Health is NO Joking Matter

 

                                                                                                   Photo by LaShauna Bell for Her Campus at SFA

 

In a given year, millions of Americans suffer from mental illness and many go their entire life without ever seeking treatment. There has always been a stigma surrounding mental illness and the general perception needs to change.

All too often, if someone claims to have been diagnosed with a mental illness, the first thought to pop into most people’s mind is, “They’re crazy,” or, “You’re just being dramatic.”. This is doing more harm than good!! I want to give you a few tips on how to be there for someone who is struggling with a mental illness:

 

1. Know That Not All Mental Illnesses are the Same

One of the most well-known mental illnesses is depression. When a person is suffering from depression, they may have symptoms such as: insomnia, apathy, fatigue, social isolation, etc. Even though depression is the most well-known condition, there are still a lot of people who are ignorant about this disorder. Depression requires a medical diagnosis and is the persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest. These characteristics in context of major depression can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include changes in: sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide. In our society today, people tend to self-diagnose, and this is very dangerous! It’s normal to have “bad days,” but unless these symptoms persist for at least two weeks, according to the DSM-V, then you likely don’t have depression. There are several other mental illnesses, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and many more. If you believe that you may be suffering from any mental illness, seek out help from a medical professional. It’s very important to get a proper diagnosis because the treatment options vary greatly between these conditions.

 

2. Be Patient with Your Loved One

Learning that a friend or family member suffers from a mental illness is a hard pill to swallow. You may think, “But I thought they were okay,” or “You just want attention,” or “You just need to snap out of it,”, or even “Have you prayed about it today?” As a Christian woman, I do believe in the power of prayer, but I know that this is oftentimes not enough! Some days will be better than others. Be patient with them. When they need someone to talk to, be there. Reassure them every day that they are NOT alone.

 

3. Get Involved in Their Treatment Plan

Courses of treatment may differ from condition to condition, but one thing is similar: the person who is suffering needs a dedicated support system. Dealing with mental illness is exhausting enough, your loved one needs to know that they have people that they can go to with any issue. If you are not familiar with their diagnosis, do research to learn how you can help them. Be involved in every way possible. If they’re prescribed medication, make sure they take it faithfully. Check up on them from time to time. Help them develop skills to deal with whatever problems they may be facing. Therapy is also a very useful tool for handling mental illness. By getting involved, you’re sending the message that they don’t have to deal with their condition alone.

Unlike popular opinion, mental illnesses are not a choice; they are a disorder of the brain. If you or a loved one are suffering from a condition, please get help. There are so many people that have these diseases that live a full, successful life. But first, they had to realize that there was a problem and seek out assistance.

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255