That person who tells you they've been diagnosed with depression is not just sad. That person you know with anxiety is not just nervous. They're sick. Quite frankly, they're just as sick as you would be if you had the flu. It's debilitating. Painful. It breaks you down. But the only difference is, the flu has a higher survival rate than those who deal with mental illness in their daily life. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. 42,773 people per year decide their life is no longer worth living. It's time for a change.
First and foremost, someone struggling with mental illness is not broken or damaged. Don't treat them as such. The biological view of mental illness is seen as a chemical imbalance in the brain. The imbalance usually lies somewhere in the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are both neurotransmitters in the brain. So no, that person you know that has bipolar disorder isn't just moody, they have a chemical imbalance. They can't control it. What can be controlled is how this perceived. So many people nowadays don't take mental illness seriously. It's not a coincidence that around 46% of homeless individuals struggle with mental illness or that around half of the countries population of adolescents over the past few years have received treatment for mental illness. It's detrimental.
People who struggle with mental illness are less likely to find work, hold steady relationships, and be socially included in mainstream society due to the stigma surrounding them. Many people believe that those that have mental ill health are violent and dangerous, or even too "sad" to keep up the pace with everyone else.
This is far from true.
The best way to help end the stigma around the mentally ill is to educate yourself and those around you. Once you learn about it, you'll have a better understanding of what people battling these illnesses go through on a day to day basis. It'll be much easier to show compassion to them, rather than basing your treatment and view off of the unrealistic stereotypes. You don't have to go out and be the number one advocate for a mental health reform- unless you want to, of course- but gaining a greater knowledge and understanding of such a sensitive topic allows you to understand.
While being educated is great, you have to remember that each person with a mental illness is unique in their own way, so their treatment should be different. While schizophrenia and anxiety are coupled under the term mental illness, they both have extremely different effects on a person's life. While being conscious of this, remember that individuals suffering from any mental illness are not defined by it. They're a person. A beautiful person with a story, a life, and a purpose.
The most important thing to do is be there. If you know somebody struggling with a mental illness, show them love, compassion, and empathy, but don't treat them like a charity case.
It's time to change societies view of mental illness. It starts with one person. Who knows, maybe that person is you.
If you or somebody you know is considering suicide, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For more information, please visit http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.