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Mental Health Awareness Month

IN THE May 26 ISSUE

FROM THE 2018 Articles,
andMental Health
SECTIONS

by Rebecca Potts

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. You can learn more about Mental Health Awareness Month on the Mental Health America website.mental health

Five years ago, I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. I had been dealing with all of them for far longer than five years, but I didn’t understand myself well enough to know what was happening. Although, some days, I think I knew the whole time what was going on, and I just didn’t want to face that reality. I resisted putting a label on what I was feeling for quite some time, because a diagnosis felt far too permanent to me. It felt like a label I couldn’t get rid of; like a sticker that peels off in the tiniest pieces and just ends up looking like a mess.

When I was finally diagnosed, I ended up becoming a mental health advocate and sharing my experience about a year later. The response from friends, family, and community was overwhelmingly encouraging. Of course, not every reaction was positive, and it isn’t lost on me that that may be the norm for a multitude of people living with a mental health condition. Sometimes, our friends and family aren’t quite sure how to support us, and it can be equally as difficult to explain the best approach to take. Most of the time, we aren’t even sure what kind of support we need.

Rebecca Potts

Rebecca Potts

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is fantastic, because we don’t talk about mental health enough. But one of the things we talk about less than mental health is how to support people in your life who are dealing with a mental health condition. It can be confusing for friends and family to understand exactly what having a mental health condition is like, and unfortunately, it can be even more difficult to explain. Here’s a definitely-not-exhaustive list of some things that you can do for the people in your lives who might be living with a mental health condition:

1. Show them you care. This seems like an obvious one, but it’s often overlooked. So how do you show them you care? Unconditional love, patience, and acceptance. Being supported and loved without judgment or criticism is one of the most healing experiences that anyone can have. And struggling alone or feeling blame or judgment because of an illness is almost always detrimental to the healing process. It’s crucial that your loved one feels they can come home to a supportive and safe environment, because a lot of people outside of their network will not understand their experience.

2. Listen when they need to talk. Being heard makes everyone feel valued, important, and respected. I mentioned before that I have depression, and when I don’t feel heard, I internalize that and blame myself for not being interesting or entertaining enough. Then, my anxiety kicks in (my depression’s BFF), and suddenly my head is swimming with self-deprecating thoughts and damaging theories about why I’m not “good enough.” It’s a vicious, but familiar cycle to so many people dealing with mental illness, and we should all probably listen to each other a lot more anyway.

3. Inform yourself about their illness. Learn as much as you can about the illness your loved one is living with: symptoms, treatments, biology, etc. Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths out there about mental health and learning the facts can help you better understand what your loved one needs. Learn some ways to help deescalate a mental health crisis and know where you can take your loved one in case they need medical care.

4. Ask questions if you’re not sure. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you should know exactly how to help your loved one and feeling terrible that you don’t. It’s perfectly fine to ask. Guessing how to help your loved one can lead to misunderstanding on both sides, which makes things more difficult for everyone and could impede recovery.

5 Remember to take care of yourself. There’s a reason why every airline tells you to put your mask on before helping anyone else. It’s important to remember that it isn’t your responsibility to “fix” your loved one and it isn’t your failure if they continue to struggle. Recovery is an ongoing process, and you’ll inevitably hit some snags along the way. Try not to feel helpless if you don’t see results right away, or even within a few months. Look into counseling for yourself, or check into family support groups that you can go to together. There are so many resources out there, so take advantage of them.

Check out KRL’s Mental Health section for more mental health related articles.

Rebecca is a blogger and Academic Coordinator for a Career Coaching Academy. In her spare time, she likes to act, sing, and write whatever comes to mind. She’s been a mental health advocate for years and has shared her story everywhere from California to Australia to help stop stigma. Her favorite thing to do is spend time with her fiance and two cats, Spyro and Crash.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeanie JacksonNo Gravatar
Twitter: @JeanieJackson9
May 26, 2018 at 4:29pm

Thank you for addressing this issue. People used to be amazed that I talked fairly casually about my anxiety and depression but before long many people at works were admitting that they had problems and some began to seek help. Only when problems hit the light are they likely to get better.
I am so fortunate to only have had one panic attack in the last 10 years. Retirement and the right medicine work well together.

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2 Greg BarberNo Gravatar
Twitter: @Twitter.com/greenprinter
June 2, 2018 at 4:59am

Tonight, June 2, I have been asked to talk about destigmatizing mental illness at a tribute for the arts at a concert on LI. Also, to collect food being donated to my charity. I started NeilsWheelsny.com in honor of my son Neil Barber, after Neil became ill with schizophrenia. Neil
Was a Lacrosse Star at Manhasset High and things began to change in his personality, his lacrosse skills and his social skills because of his mental illness. His former Lacrosse Coach and I decided to start NeilsWheels to educate his students that mental illness should be openly discussed and mental illness should be treated like any other illness and people should not be embarrassed or feel shame if a family member became mentally ill. I have openly talked about my son’s illness for 25
Years and a movie trailer on our website shows how the kids in his school opened up and made Neil a hero for our charity and our commitment to help others.

I am going to print out your post and share it with the audience along with my journey as a Caregiver to Neil. Being a Caregiver is one of the hardest roles in life.

NAMI encourages people to call me when they are in crisis.

Greg Barber
Neil’s Dad

Reply

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