Millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. Did you know that over one in four adults suffer from a mental illness? And if one is not enough, many people suffer from multiple mental illnesses at one time.
It’s a miserable place to be.
Anxiety disorders are among the most common types of mental illness. They affect over 40 million adults, or around 18% of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety disorders are also the most treatable, yet most individuals don’t receive treatment of any kind.
Chances are you know someone with a mental illness or you may even have one yourself. Today I don’t want to focus on the different types of mental illnesses, but the importance of getting help if you are struggling with any mental challenge or illness.
Since our lives are so busy, it’s easy to put our mental struggles on the back burner or shut them in the dark closet and promise to deal with them later, but this behavior can be harmful to ourselves and others.
Did you know that without treatment, mental conditions can result in unnecessary disability, unemployment, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide, obviously poor quality of life, and even substance abuse? Many of these can also result in death. Untreated anxiety and depression can also shrink the hippocampus, the region of the brain primarily responsible for long-term memory and regulation of emotional responses, according to research from Yale University.
It’s scary. Untreated mental illness can cause our friends and families to suffer as well.
Now, before I continue, I want to remind you that I’m not a mental health professional. This is just my advice from personal experience and the experience of encountering others who suffer from mental illness.
This month I want to challenge you to take a look at yourself. Do you have unresolved trauma? Do you feel stressed most of the time or does facing an important decision cause you to shut down? Do you ever have panic attacks or feel like one may come on? Do you ever feel extremely sad for weeks at a time? We need to ask ourselves these questions, along with other, similar questions. And although you should never self-diagnose, if the answer to any of these is yes, you may suffer from a mental illness (emphasis on may) and it’s okay.
Repeat after me — it’s okay. Again — it’s okay.
You’re not weird or strange and if you end up with a diagnosis, you will get through this.
Now, I want to note that I don’t believe that everyone facing a mental struggle needs to visit a psychiatrist to get help. Although it isn’t wise for someone who isn’t a mental health professional to attempt to diagnose a mental health condition or illness.
Sometimes it is okay to take up a hobby, visit a religious advisor, or talk to a friend if what you are struggling with is mild. If this helps, great. If not, you should seriously consider visiting a mental health professional. Also, if what you are experiencing is extreme, you need to visit a mental health professional. There are low-cost, income-based options.
I think it’s also important for us to check on our friends and family and ask them if they’re okay. If a friend or family member comes to you with a concern, listen to them without judgment and help them, however they need it.
It’s also important for those of us who have suffered with mental struggles or illnesses in the past to make sure we don’t have any lingering issues that may affect us or those around us. This month, it’s time to ask ourselves the hard questions.