Recently my husband and I had a discussion about anxiety disorders. No, my husband is not a mental health professional…but we often find ourselves discussing the topic. Through our recent conversation it got me thinking, there are things everyone should know about mental illness that maybe aren’t talked about in everyone’s homes or on social platforms.
1. It’s a disease, like any other disease. People tend to have the misconception that one can just “think” their mental illness away. While that is partially true (through interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy- although it doesn’t typically just “go away”), it is much more complex then someone who is suffering with depression just thinking positively. Your brain is a major organ, and just like every other organ in your body it is susceptible to injury and disease.
2. Family history doesn’t necessarily solidify your fate when it comes to having a mental illness. By this I mean you do not have to have a history of mental illness in your family to have one, and vice versa. Way back when I took my psychology courses for my undergrad, we often talked about nature vs nurture. At that time, it was widely believed that it was either one or the other that fostered mental illness. As time has gone on and we’ve learned more about the human brain, epi-genetics, and how our lifestyles and environments impact us, we have learned that it isn’t one but both. Nature AND nurture. Just as you can be the first person in your family to have heart disease, you can be the first person to have a bonified mental illness.
3. No one is immune to it. Again, it’s a disease, and this means that it doesn’t discriminate against social status, wealth, or any other factors. With this said, there are absolutely some who are more prone to developing a mental illness then others, but it doesn’t mean your rich celeb idol doesn’t suffer from it either (think Robin Williams, Kate spade, etc).
4. Someone in your life may be suffering with a mental illness and you may not realize it. To piggyback on number 3, I’ve seen lots of posts on facebook urging people to “check on their happy friends” with pictures of Robin Williams. When I see it, I share it. Why? Because it is very true. As a society, we often have this picture of what someone with a mental illness looks like. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble but the picture you may have in your mind of what someone with a mental illness looks like is probably wrong. It can be anyone and everyone- including the friends of yours you believe are happy.
5. There’s hope. The medical field has come a long way in treatment of mental illness. We have learned to recognize it for what it is, a disease. And with that we have become much more compassionate, holistic, and effective in our treatments. Also, while we still have a long way to go to erase the stigma of mental illness, we have come a long way and that’s worth recognizing. We, as a society, are becoming more aware that it truly is okay to reach out for help and I think that’s a beautiful thing.
Need help? Reach out for it:
Until next time,