"AS I LOOK BACK ON 2017 I DID NOT REALIZE MY LIFE HAD BEEN TOUCHED BY THE EFFECTS OF MENTAL ILLNESS AND ADDICTION IN SO MANY SERIOUS AND PROFOUND WAYS THIS YEAR!”
If I add to that review above the number of people who have reached out personally or professionally, with additional needs concerning mental health issues, the number grows exponentially.
I think about how easy it is for me to openly discuss my own physical health challenges or even my best friend’s struggle with cancer. But, when I begin to discuss the mental health concerns of those I love, I find myself feeling reticent and silent.
The stigma associated with being married to, related to, or in need January 2018 Healthy Sussex QUARTERLY of help with regards to self or loved one with mental illness, is not an easy conversation to have. This may be due to the distinct undercurrents of judgement and discomfort I perceive others would respond with, it could leave me silent. I know if I struggle with self-censure, others living with someone with mental illness or even having a diagnosis themselves most likely suffers in silence forgoing support.
This leaves me with more questions than answers:
- How do we as a community, state and nation create an environment that allows people to feel safe, accepted, supported and cared for who have a mental health diagnosis themselves or who may have a loved one who does?
- How do we help those who need support and acceptance?
- How can we be sure that everyone has access to the appropriate level of care needed?
- How can we make sure we are informed and know where to refer people that are asking for our help?
A good place to start, in the effort to decrease the stigma, would be statewide organizations such as the Mental Health Association of Delaware (MHA) and National Alliance on Mental Illness in Delaware (NAMI). As leaders in this field both organizations help to educate, inform and empower you, and the people you care about, on the facts associated with mental illness. Consider becoming an advocate for these groups.
Leaders in every walk of life should acknowledge this stigma is real; take a real deep look at how they may be contributing to the perpetuation of it and determine what they can do help overcome it. As more and more people are stepping forward to seek help, let’s make sure we reach out to greet them not take a step back or turn away.
COMMIT TO ACKNOWLEDGE, ACCEPT AND ACT IN 2018!
Director, Sussex County Health Coalition