Imagine a world where people reached out for help with their mental health as easily, frequently, and adamantly as they did for their physical health issues. We all know that high blood pressure left untreated can lead to more serious and life-threatening conditions such as a heart-attack or stroke. We also know that depression, anxiety and other untreated mental health conditions can lead to chronic pain, physical health issues, diminished daily functioning, incarceration and suicide.
So why do many of us continue to ignore or shrug off our lack of sleep, inability to concentrate, changes in appetite, erratic mood swings and overwhelming or persistent feelings of despair? This is likely due to an ongoing stigma that people who are struggling with mental health are “weak.” Research also indicates that people convince themselves that the overwhelming feelings of despair and sleepless nights will eventually resolve. They just need to “get over it” and “push on.” Can you imagine telling your child who breaks their leg at soccer practice that seeking help from a medical professional is a sign of “weakness?” Or explaining to your child that eventually that broken bone will resolve, and the pain will eventually stop? No! We wouldn’t dare! We wouldn’t neglect them the necessary care they need because we know that left untreated, that child may have lifelong implications and impairments. They may not ever be able to walk or play sports again.
Just like accidents happen in sports, unfavorable and unintended events happen in life leaving us feeling overwhelmed, alone, and broken. We should not feel ashamed or guilty about seeking professional help in the midst of life’s challenges. Left untreated, just like a broken bone, we could be left with lifelong implications that impact our ability to have healthy relationships, employment, stability and joy.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I challenge you to help in the fight to end the stigma. I challenge you to seek help if you are in need of mental health services. I challenge you to share your story with others. Every person should feel just as comfortable sharing their mental health journey as they do the story of war wounds, trips, slips, falls and accidents. Your mental health is as equally important as your physical health. I would like to invite you to join the millions world-wide who are raising awareness about mental health this month and imagine the world without the stigma