We Need To Talk About Mental Illness More

We Need To Talk About Mental Illness More

Next time "mental illness" comes up in a conversation, don't shy away and pretend it never happened.
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As soon as the term "mental illness" gets brought up, most people immediately get quiet, maybe they shuffle their feet, their face becomes rigid, and they try their best to act like the term never got brought up. But why are so many people afraid to acknowledge mental illness? After all, 1 in 5 people in the United States live with a mental illness, and with over 323 million people in the country that's 64.6 million people living with a mental illness. Yet, society tells everyone to keep quiet, not to talk about mental illness when it needs to be talked about, and to go about life trying to pretend like everything is OK. As a person suffering from a mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, I do not think this is okay. Not at all.

Mental illness can be incredibly life threatening, and there are so many different kinds of mental illness, and sometimes the signs may not be there until it is much too late. I'm sure many of you reading this either have a mental illness or know/suspect someone who does. Then why are we still not talking about it? Especially when it can be so detrimental to the person and those around them.

For example, from personal experiences, I suffered from anorexia with purging tendencies for three years. I should've been hospitalized at least on three occasions, or sent off to facilities far from home, but I'm stubborn, and refused to let that happen, even when I was resting for most of the time on 80 pounds or so. I was dying, I was a skeleton, but I was obsessed with weight and food, and I let it consume me. I lost out on amazing moments of life because of it, but fortunately, I did not lose out on life in the end. Eating disorders have the highest death rate of any mental illness, specifically anorexia, with a person dying every 62 minutes from an eating disorder. Yet, this isn't talked about.

After starting the recovery process from my eating disorder about a year ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Since eating disorders are a mental illness, there is almost always another mental illness cause lying beneath them. Many times it tends to be depression, anxiety, OCD, or, like in my case, bipolar disorder. To express just how life-threatening mental illness can be, I, as a bipolar individual, attempted suicide at least twice; the first time was the reason I called to get a diagnosis for a mental illness, which is how I discovered I was bipolar. Not only did I attempt suicide twice, I lost a majority of my friends through my actions both before and after being diagnosed. I engaged in risky, self-destructive behaviors for years before the diagnosis and the time following it. I would act selfishly and irrationally in my manic and depressive episodes. I could easily have accidentally killed myself with many of my actions, and I could've hurt others possibly too. Yet, no one wants to acknowledge the consequences of mental illness on the individual and those around them.

And as for medication, for those with a mental illness, many times medication is the only thing to allow them to function well in society, and often times, the medication cannot be afforded. And not only that, many times those prescribing the medication are crooked or don't pay attention to their patient's concerns, and they prescribe them with the absolute wrong medication. Sometimes medication can negatively affect the individual, and sometimes they cannot even gain access to it. Since mental illness affects a fifth of Americans, these two things need to be talked about.

For example, I have been put onto three different medications (though I'm currently off any right now, a personal choice, maybe not the best, but it's better than being on the medications I was on). The first medication made me rapid cycle, even reaching the point where I'd be extremely manic, blow a thousand or so dollars in an hour or so, then the next hour feel so depressed that I'm thinking of every possible way to go ahead and kill myself. The next medication made me only depressed, severely depressed, but too zombie-like to do so much as walk to the other side of the house. The last medication, my new psychiatrist felt would work perfectly since it had the highest success rate for bipolar individuals. At first, I thought it was helping, but with time, I became almost strictly manic, continuing extreme risky behaviors for a long time. I became manipulative, selfish, self-destructive and destructive towards those around me. Every time I'd go to this new psychiatrist and express my concerns, he'd bump up the dosage and things only got worse (which is why I took myself of these meds months later, and let me tell you, the withdraws were not pretty, but with time, I've grown to control myself somewhat better during manic/depressive episodes at least). Fortunately, our insurance allowed for decently-priced visits and access to prescriptions, but many, many people in the United States cannot afford visits or prescriptions, and that needs to be addressed. And the aspect of many psychiatrists not pay attention to their patients also needs to be addressed. With the friends and family around me suffering from mental illness, I have seen the impact of not being able to afford medication, of not having the right medication, of having to switch to many different psychiatrists before finding a good one, and I think these are a big problem in America.

Mental illness can impact not only the individual but those around them. It can lead to self-destructive behaviors and addictions, such as hyper-sexuality, alcohol and drug abuse (ex. weed, pills, heroin, etc), paranoia repetitions, trust issues, overspending, hoarding, lying, theft, etc. And from first hand experience, I can say I have personally had problems with some of the problems stated above as well as others not listed. These are all problems that can directly effect friends and family of the individual and even society in general as well. I think too many addictions and crimes are not accurately addressed, and that in America, they do not look at the reasons for what may have caused these problems, but rather at the fact the problems were even caused. And I think that since we don't talk about mental illness, the underlying issues will never truly be addressed, because the majority of the time, these addictions and behaviors are caused by a mental illness. I mean, so many other nations address these issues related to mental health, and these have some of the lowest crime and best mental health systems in the world.

Mental illness is so prominent, so difficult, and so detrimental to a stable life. I have many friends and even family around me who suffer from various mental illnesses (ex. bipolar, depression, anxiety, etc.), and I have seen their growth and setbacks because of their mental illnesses. A lot of them feel like they cannot talk about their mental illness, so they keep things to themselves, which only makes things worse. And I think that not being able to freely express their concerns with mental illness only makes matters worse and leads to more damage. In fact, a few friends of mine and I started a student organization at our university to combat this stigma of not talking about and acknowledging mental illness and its consequences. It's already gained a lot of support, which is amazing, but which also shows that there are so many people out their too afraid to talk about these things, and when they find a small place that feels or seems safe to talk about it, they seek refuge there. But they should be able to freely express themselves without feeling stigmatized, burdened, looked down upon, or merely pushed to the side. Instead, society does exactly those things, and it becomes difficult for individuals to reach out and gain the help the need, be it from professionals, family, or friends.

Mental illness NEEDS to be talked about. Mental illness cannot keep being swept under the rug. Mental illness needs to be addressed. Mental illness needs more support and recognition by the general public. Mental illness should never be handled alone.

Mental illness does not mean failure, it just means that people see the world differently than most, but that does not invalidate how they feel. And if we don't talk about mental illness, it's just going to get worse.

So next time someone brings up the topic, don't shy away from it. Talk about it. Talk about the concerns and consequences. Talk about the facts and possibilities. Talk about getting help or gaining support. It all starts with one person. The more mental illness is talked about, the more that can be done to help it. I have suffered so much and have seen so many people I know around me suffer as much if not sometimes worse than I do, that the more this is addressed, the more help and benefit there can be.

And if you suffer from a mental illness, remember that you are not alone in it. You aren't the only one suffering, and you can find support all around you. Don't ever feel ashamed or embarrassed by your mental illness because it's what make you who you are, and who you are should not be something to be ashamed of. You see the world in different, fascinating ways, and you are special because of that, and your worth and importance is not defined by your mental illness.

Cover Image Credit: Justina Ambroz

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Depression Is A Balancing Act That Is And Isn't In Our Control

Managing depression can sometimes feel overwhelming.

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*Warning: Before reading any further is that this article will be talking about heavy topics such as depression and suicide.*

Depression in this day and age is a very sticky topic to talk about. Yes, we are becoming more aware and accepting of the issue, but we still have a long ways to go in terms of really know how we can be there for people in a way that's most effective and where they don't feel judged because of it.

I have dealt with depression most of my life and especially going through college. It didn't become a big thing for me till I came to college, and then having to navigate my issue of it. Whether that's talking about it friends vaguely about it, bottling it all in, going for professional help, etc. It's one of the many reasons why I'm afraid of meeting someone new, or wanting to be in a relationship, I was afraid of the judgment and feeling that if I told someone they either might not want to do anything with me, say it's too much for them, etc.

Now some of those fears, in my opinion, were unjustified in a sense that yes even though it is important for people to be there for me in my time of need, I need to be conscious of how much I share and whether they can take that piece of me I shared. It's a balancing act that is hard to manage, but it allows me for a much-needed look into myself of what actually makes me happy, what doesn't, what triggers my depression and going out of my way to make sure I don't let it take control of me.

The depression took me to places, very dark places that I'm happy to have push through, with my depression it made my thoughts go into suicidal ideation, and even hurting myself, an act that I never thought I would ever do but thankfully I had people in my life that helped me overcome that and going to talk to a professional.

Depression is a mental health issue that most everyone struggles with regardless of where they're at in life, it can come like a tidal wave, or not at all. It's an internal struggle with ourselves, and we do our best trying to get through it. I know that I'm not alone in this, and if you're reading this you're not alone either.

Don't be afraid to talk about it, but be mindful of other people and how much you can share in order for them to be able to process it, go for professional help, exercise, hang out with friends. Don't let depression fully control your life, it won't go away but if we can manage it in a way that helps us be able to keep it under control then that's a win.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

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