Most of us are comfortable sharing with our co-workers and friends when we’re going in for knee surgery or are taking medicine for high cholesterol. Yet we might not so easily talk about receiving treatment for depression or bipolar disorder. The stigma around mental health can be so strong that people who really need help will wait as much as a year before telling a friend or family member that they have a problem.
The danger of course is that help won’t come soon enough. Stigma, isolation and misperceptions about mental health may be some of the reasons that suicides are taking more young lives in the U.S. every year than murders.
Mental health is equally as powerful on the other end of the spectrum — people who rate themselves high in “well-being” generally are the same people who report higher satisfaction with life and even higher performance reviews on the job.
Yet there is a prevailing sense within our culture that medical conditions are somehow easier to acknowledge than mental health conditions.
Research by the National Institute of Mental Health indicates that mental disorders are brain disorders. Just as we have disease and dysfunction in a heart or kidney we can also experience dysfunction in the brain, which leads to mental illness.
If you or a loved one has ever been challenged with a mental health condition, you understand that conditions affecting thoughts and feelings are just as real as those that affect our body. And sadly, when we keep mental health challenges a secret, we often don’t get the help we need.
Emotional health impacts every area of our life. Good emotional health allows people to:
- Cope with the stress of everyday life
- Work productively
- Realize their true potential
- Be themselves
How can we help? Start talking. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s the perfect time to raise awareness around our overall state of well-being and discuss what mental health means in our own lives. By talking openly about mental health and starting a national dialogue around its role in total health, we can make mental well-being as important as regular exercise and good nutrition.
Throughout the month of May, we will be promoting mental health on our social media channels. We’ll discuss why mental health is so important, share resources, and promote the inspiring work of leading organizations in the mental health space. We invite you to join the conversation using the hashtag #mentalhealthmatters on your Twitter and Facebook pages.
You can also find videos and articles on The Health Section on topics such as the prevalence of depression in our youth; what to do if you think you have a problem; and the importance of helping veterans make the transition from the stress of combat to the pace of the civilian life.
Together we can reduce stigma and support each other along the way.