How can something that you can’t see, hear, or touch be life threatening? Welcome to the world of mental illness. This condition is one that can’t be seen by someone who doesn’t have the right lens for it. Spreading awareness and educating others about mental illness can decrease stigma, encourage people to reach out for help, as well as educate the community on what signs to look for.
“Just snap out of it!” “It’s all in your head.” “You don’t look sad.” Such invalidating statements have been pounded on the ears of those who battle mental illness. Recovery is hard enough, but decreasing stigma can help ease the path of reaching out for treatment. Here’s the time where opposers might step up and say “How do we know if stigma is a barrier for those struggling with mental illness?” The Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical research group in Minnesota, states that stigma has harmful effects on those with a mental illness. This type of discrimination can cause “Reluctance to seek help or treatment, fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing, bullying, physical violence or harassment, etc,” (Mayo Clinic). As we can see, stigma not only discourages others from reaching out for help but negatively impacts other parts of one’s life. A research study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that “57% of all adults believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness, but only 25% of adults with mental health symptoms believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness.” According to the text evidence, it is widely believed that when those suffering from a mental illness reach out for help, they are treated in a cordial way, but unfortunately, it is not the case. Apparently, stigma not only lurks among the crowd of common people but in the medical field as well.
Helping someone with a mental illness can be confusing, especially when you haven’t received proper education on the subject. The stigma in the atmosphere and the shortage of mental health education in our society creates tension when one is trying to reach out for help. In the end, all that is really needed is validation and a boost of encouragement. Textual evidence from Element Behavioral Health.Inc states that “with an estimated 20.8 million Americans aged 12 and older (8.3 percent of the population) in 2008 who needed treatment but did not receive it at a specialty facility, more than 95 percent (95.2) felt they didn’t need it.” When someone has a mental illness, it can be hard for them to want to get better. “Reaching out can help your friend or family member begin to get a handle on an emotional crisis. But professional help is the best way to fully address a mental health problem and get that problem under control.” states the American Psychological Association (APA). Managing an inner battle from, while fighting the stigma, is more than what should be asked for from anyone. Although others may not be able to relate to the “invisible” struggles of their loved ones, it is imperative that they know which door to lead them to.
Due to lack of awareness and education about mental illness, those suffering with it are oblivious or misinformed about their condition and the treatment options available. “Without education, recovery is a much slower, painstaking process,” states the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Educating others about mental illness provides them with knowledge about “coping skills, information about medications, treatment options, and new research,” (NAMI). Without this information, one who is suffering from a mental illness would not be aware of the multiple aspects of recovery. The documentary
The documentary Stay Strong opens the world up to the inner struggles of singer, songwriter, author, and actress, Demi Lovato. In this short film, the young woman talks about her struggles with Bulimia, self-harm, and Depression. She claims that before she was encouraged to go into treatment she wasn’t educated about her issues. “I didn’t think I had a problem… I never thought that it was bad enough,” says Demi. After admitting into rehab at Timberline Knolls, Lovato finds out that she has Bipolar Disorder. “I was like, well what is Bipolar anyways?” Demi asked. “I mean everyone’s moody, so is Bipolar really just what normal is?”. As she spent the next few months in inpatient treatment, Lovato was able to educate herself and is now a mental health advocate, Today she proudly stands behind her own mental health awareness campaign, Be Vocal. Demi is one of the many examples of people who have reached out for treatment and received proper education about mental illness. Because of her journey, Demi is now able to help herself as well as others. Unlike physical illnesses, the signs and symptoms of a mental illness may not be obvious to others, including the ones who are suffering from it. Knowing how to spot the red flags and being aware of the treatment options can enable somebody to help a struggling loved one.
The reasons stated are some of the few advantages of spreading awareness and educating others on mental illness. Others include encouraging further research, creating a peaceful environment for others, and teaching humanity on how to care for others despite their differences. The possibilities are endless and burning beneath our feet. Implementing the strategies listed above can create results such as mental health classes in schools, awareness activities in work and team environments, mental health marches around college campuses, etc. It is our job as a community to come together and light the embers. Only then can wildfire spread.
“Common Reasons Why Those Who Need Treatment Don’t Get It.” Addiction Treatment | Elements | Drug Rehab Treatment Centers. Elements Behavioral Health.Inc, 16 Dec. 2016. Web. 19 May 2017.
“Supporting a Family Member with Serious Mental Illness.” American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 19 May 2017.
“Mental Health: Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 May 2014. Web. 19 May 2017.
“Stigma of Mental Illness.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 04 Oct. 2013. Web. 19 May 2017.
Mental illness is not only a topic that I am deeply passionate about but one that I am currently experiencing. A few weeks ago, I was admitted into an inpatient treatment facility at San Jose Behavioral Health. I spent about a week there and bonded with many of the patients and staff there. Shortly before my discharge, I presented them with a goodbye and thank you present: a poem that I wrote during my stay, “A Fire in the Junkyard”. I am sharing this poem with you because it was the inspiration behind this paper, which I hope inspired you!
A Fire in the Junkyard
Each day is a challenge that comes with a lifetime of rewards.
Those who beg to differ have never truly lived.
- Jharna Sutaria
Jharna Sutaria is a dazzling 17-year old who dreams of tracing her imprint on the world. As someone who is dealing with mental illness, Jharna believes in raising awareness and educating others about the subject. She wants to break the stigma that surrounds the invisible demons, through her writing.
Jharna’s first publication was at the age of 9 when one of her pieces was selected for the book, A Celebration of Poets. Over the past year, she has claimed Honorable Mention in the 2016-2017 Coppell Gifted Association (CGA) Creative Writing Competition. Jharna works as marketing designer for Academy of Texas Aquatic Champions (ATAC) Swim Club, and Light Heart, Focused Mind (LHFM) Foundation. She is in the process of writing her first novel, thank you, and created a poetry blog called Outburst. Jharna aspires to be an author and creative writing teacher when she graduates school.
The young woman has been in treatment since the winter of 2015 and is staying strong in her recovery. Some of the major things that get her through each day are her purpose, her heartbeat, and her story.
As a resident of Palo Alto, California, Jharna attends Paly Senior High School and is a swimmer on PASA (Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics). She adores her 15-year-old sister, Arnavi, and her 8-year-old dog, Mandy.
Link to Outburst: http://jharnasutaria.wixsite.com/outburst