With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I think it’s a good time to round it off with this. Although we have come a long way and I think my generation has done a good job at encouraging others, there's still a long way to go.

For years I struggled with mental health issues. My best advice for someone struggling is to reach out. Being open and getting help is such an important step and is so freeing.

Mental illness is not just the stereotypical schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Mental illnesses range from things such as eating and mood disorders to personality disorders and addiction. More people suffer from these things than we realize….neighbors, friends, children, parents. Anyone can be struggling, so be kind.

Seeing a therapist, being on medicine or spending time in a mental health center does not make you crazy or weird or any other insult people come up with. Sometimes you just aren't feeling like yourself and need help getting back on your feet.

It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to ask for help when you need it.

Everyone has their own battles, some are just bigger than others and need a bigger army to fight.

The worst thing is hearing people say things such as “your life is so good, what do you have to be sad/nervous/upset about?” Sometimes people actually need help. Sometimes things go on behind closed doors that others have no idea about. Sometimes people can’t control their own brains. Sometimes people actually have hormone imbalances or brain trauma that causes them to have some sort of mental health issues. It isn’t all just made up for attention.

{I will say that there are definitely people that make up mental illnesses for attention, but that’s another problem within itself.}

Sometimes people experience negative situations that affect them in ways others can’t understand. For example, veterans and victims of trauma often suffer from PTSD.

Or maybe you were bullied as a child and you just let it slide, not everyone does that. Some people are repeatedly bullied and end up experiencing things such as body dysmorphic disorder and depression later on in life. You never know what else goes on in a person’s life. Be kind and lift each other up.

Another common problem in society that is toxic to mental health is sarcastically belittling mental illness. I’m sure you’ve overheard a snide comment like “everyone’s depressed now.” Mental health isn’t something to take lightly. If we spoke up and let our emotions out in healthy ways, maybe everyone wouldn’t be depressed.

It is people that belittle mental health that make it worse. You make those people who are on the verge of getting help revert and go back into their shell.

People that have never really struggled with anything don’t quite understand. They can’t really understand why sometimes you’re just sad, or mad, or just numb. You may get comments like "you're so boring" or "stop being so down." I’m so sorry that my mental health is an inconvenience to you. If I could just “get over it” don’t you think I would have by now?

I am such a big advocate for checking in on people. So many mental health issues can be so easily hidden. You don't need to go diagnosing people, but if someone seems a little off maybe check in on them.

A lot of mental illnesses come and go. They’re never really "cured", but many people will learn coping mechanisms that greatly improve their daily lives. A big part of successful treatment is having a support system.

That being said, please do not say “I'm always here if you need anything” if you don’t actually mean it. It is very toxic to someone with a mental illness if they try to open up to you and you shut them out.

Don’t be someone’s therapist if you aren’t actually a therapist. People aren’t always looking for answers or for you to fix their problems. Sometimes just an open ear and a shoulder to lean on is what is needed. If you reach out to someone and they aren’t ready to talk, don’t pressure them. Just be supportive from a distance. Sometimes just a simple “Hey, I’ve been thinking about you. Hope you have a good day!” message goes a long way.

{So many people have helped me along the way and many of them don’t even know it. If you have ever been a supporter or just given an encouraging statement, thank you so much!!}

Everyone deals with things in different ways. Let’s stop judging each other and labeling people for things that are sometimes out of their control. Nobody is perfect. Personally, I think everyone should take “mental health days” or have relaxation times. Everyone gets stressed and worn out. Take care of yourself and each other.

National Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255

National Substance Abuse hotline: 1-800-662-4357

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Military OneSource: 1-800-342-9647

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health Resources