Did you know that in America:
14 million people die of cancer every year
25 million people have asthma
29.1 million people develop diabetes
53 million people have arthritis
61.5 million have a mental illness
Mental illness is not weakness it is an illness. So, I have to ask, if 61.5 million American’s are struggling with a mental illness, making it more common than diabetes or asthma, why is it that those people are still often afraid to discuss it?
We see the consequences of untreated mental illness every day in our lives and in the media. So often people comment that children with mental illness need love or better parenting. I wonder is that what they would say to a child with a medical illness or disability?
We wonder about violence in schools- Just over half (50.6%) of children with a mental health condition aged 8-15 received mental health services in the previous year. Perhaps these children were not treated and identified as there is a lack of awareness of symptoms or a fear of the stigma. Parent’s don’t want their children labeled and certainly not with a mental illness. How do we change this?
What we truly need is education on mental illness and increased awareness of mental illness. Every year one adult in four, along with one child in ten, will have a mental health issue. These conditions can profoundly affect literally millions of lives, affecting the capability of these individuals to make it through the day, to sustain relationships, and to maintain work.
Who do you know that may have a mental health issue that you are not aware of? I worked in the corporate world in a management position for 20 years before entering the mental health field. I look back at my experiences at work and think of many different situations and experiences and I realize that many people may have been struggling with mental illness and struggling with symptoms that I was not aware of and could not comprehend. I reflect on how I could have been more compassionate in certain situations if I had been aware of the symptoms of mental illness.
You can support others who are struggling every day, some may or may not have a mental health diagnosis, but you can’t go wrong by reaching out to someone who you know is struggling.
Suggestions on how you may approach someone living with a mental health condition or anyone that is having a tough time:
- Talk to them in a space that is comfortable, where you won’t likely be interrupted and where there are likely minimal distractions.
- Ease into the conversation, gradually. It may be that the person is not in a place to talk, and that is OK.
- Greeting them and extending a gentle kindness can go a long way. Sometimes less is more.
- Be sure to speak in a relaxed and calm manner.
- Be respectful, compassionate and empathetic to their feelings by engaging in reflective listening, such as “I hear that you are having a bad day today. Yes, some days are certainly more challenging than others. I understand.”
- Be a good listener, be responsive and make eye contact with a caring approach.
- Give them the opportunity to talk and open up but don’t press.
- Share some easy insights as a way of encouraging easy conversation, such as comments about the weather, the community or other.
- Speak at a level appropriate to their age and development level. Keep in mind that mental illness has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence.
- Be aware of a person becoming upset or confused by your conversation with them.
- Show respect and understanding for how they describe and interpret their symptoms.
- Genuinely express your concern.
Things to Avoid Saying:
- “Just pray about it.”
- “You just need to change you’re attitude.”
- “Everyone feels that way sometimes.”
- “You have the same illness as my (whoever).”
- “Yes, we all feel a little crazy now and then.”
Things to Avoid Doing:
- Criticizing blaming or raising your voice at them.
- Talking too much, too rapidly, too loudly. Silence and pauses are ok.
- Talking about yourself and your issues.
- Showing any form of hostility towards them.
- Assuming things about them or their situation.
- Patronizing them or saying anything condescending.
Did You Know that……
- An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
- Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year.8
- Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.
- More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.
If you know someone that needs help, reach out, don’t be afraid. The worst thing you can do is ignore them. If you aren’t sure about what to do reach out to a mental health professional for advice.