So from the time that I woke up this morning to the time that I’m almost done with the first part of my work duties, my day is pretty normal. All of a sudden from no where, I’m having a nervous spell. I have these spells every now and then. I’m not sure if it’s an anxiety or panic attack. However, my hands shake and I’m just nervous. This little episode made me think about the people who I know personally that struggle with anxiety or panic issues. As I was thinking about those people, I was reminded that this month is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve never participated in a lot of awareness activities in reference to mental health. This year (maybe starting last year) I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health. I am thankful that it’s becoming a more talked about subject within our society, yet I feel like there is still more work to be done. I want to share with you all four reasons why I think mental health awareness is very important. Think about the people you know that are going through some level of mental illness. It may a friend you know or it may even be you.
- Most people are suffering in silence. I’ve talked many times about how we’re taught in society to fake it until we make it. We’re also taught to answer the question of how we’re doing with “fine.” The problem is that many people are suffering through mental illnesses without sharing the reality of what’s going on either with a strong support system or an actual doctor/therapist. When we suffer in silence, we rob ourselves of the resources and people that could be a blessing and source of healing for us. To make it in life, we have to be honest about what’s going on with us. I think a lot of people are afraid to be honest about what they’re going through because we have this “superior complex” attitude that we believe we must have all the time. However, we have to be able to embrace being vulnerable and not okay. No matter how “small” your mental illness is, surround yourself with people who have your best interest at heart. Those people can encourage you, let you know that you’re not alone and lead you to resources that can put you on the path to healing. Please do not allow yourself to suffer with what you’re dealing with alone. Get a positive support system around you and get on the path to healing.
- There is a strong connection between mental illness and suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (via the CDC), there are more than 41,000 people each year who take their own life. Also, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among adults and 3rd among those 10-24. There are many many people, especially young people, who struggle with suicidal thoughts. I am convinced that those thoughts should not be played with or taken lightly. It makes me sad when I read on Facebook about a teenager putting up statuses that may have given clues that they were thinking about killing themselves and then weeks later they end up taking their life. If you know someone who even mentions the idea of killing themselves, you should take that seriously and lead them to the resources that would help them. Many go to suicide as the solution to their problems because it seems easier than fighting through the agony of whatever they’re dealing with. If we know people who are having suicidal thoughts, we have to share with them their value for living and why they matter. Again, this is why our young people (and everyone in general) need our support especially in the difficult times. Turning a young person away can be the difference between them giving up on life or persevering through the difficult moments. Extend your arms and let that person know that everything is going to be alright and that you have their back. That can make a HUGE difference to anyone, particularly a young person struggling with suicidal thoughts.
- Life trauma can have a huge effect on us mentally. Dictionary.com defines trauma as “an experience that produces psychological injury or pain.” Life events that can be traumatic includes but is not limited to: abuse (all kinds), major financial loss, rape, loss of a loved one, divorce, home instability, family drama, unexpected job loss, homelessness, etc. Everyone of us knows someone who has been through one of the traumatic events I listed (and even something that I did not put up). Traumatic events have a way of forever changing the trajectory of life mentally for the ones who go through it. And from my experience, I believe the older you are, the tougher it is mentally to navigate through the traumatic experience. Life has a way of beating all of us up in someway, but there are those out there who’ve really had a rough adventure at this thing called life. Knowing that we cannot change the events of the past is probably the most frustrating thing about life. However, as I said earlier, we have to be honest about the effect that these traumatic events have had on our lives. Too many of us try to live our lives as if nothing is wrong when our attitude, body language and behavior says the opposite. For whatever reason, too many of us have been taught to just throw our feelings under the rug. Yes God is greater than our feelings, bur I also believe that God wants us to be open and honest about what we’re feeling. Today, I encourage you to look over your life and look at the traumatic events that’s taken place. How are those events still affecting you today? Take some time to think it through and begin to seek out the resources to get assistance. Life has hurt all of us. I say again: you are not alone!
- There is a lack of discussion by many churches on mental health. I am basing this point solely on my experience and what I’ve seen via my local area and the internet. I thank God for Pastor Rick Warren having an entire conference devoted to mental health. The issue of mental health really became relevant for Pastor Rick a few years ago when his son committed suicide. Since that time, Pastor Rick and his wife have been huge proponents of the church talking about mental health. If there’s any institution that should be leading the discussion of mental health, it should be the church. There are many many people who walk in our churches week after week suffering through mental illness, yet all they’re told is to put a praise on it. There is nothing wrong with praising God in whatever form in the midst of whatever you’re going through. However, it’s a waste of time to run around and dance for 2 hours yet be no closer to the necessary healing needed. I believe God uses therapists, God-called pastors, counselors, and other helping professionals to lead us to the path of healing. I am calling on churches to invest time and money into the issue of mental health. How many churches do you know are actively talking about mental health this month? How many churches in our nation have a conference or event specifically designated to mental health? How many churches have helping professionals available to assist people struggling with mental illness? As an agent of change, the church should be teaming up with those who professionally serve people struggling with mental illness to lead the way in bringing mental illness to the forefront of conversations and action.
In this day and age, we must understand that mental health is as important as physical health. It’s good to be physically healthy, but I believe God also wants us to be healthy in our minds. If you’re reading this post and you’re struggling with any kind of mental health issues, I want to encourage you to seek the assistance you need. Do not be afraid to open up about what you’re dealing with. You and your concerns matter. There’s help available for you. Go and get it!
Last but not least, I want to thank all of you who work in the mental health profession whether you’re a counselor, psychotherapist, counselor, pastor or any helping professional. Your work is important and helps many people with their daily struggles. Stay encouraged and do not let ANYTHING stop you from serving. You are doing an excellent job. Keep it up!
On my Pinterest page, I have a mental health board. Follow that board for my pinnings on mental health issues.