With that expert’s list of ways to manage anxiety, the latest trendy mental health app and that “magical cure for depression” your aunt heard about on TV, it seems like everyone’s full of mental health advice these days.

So, we asked our mental health community to share pieces of advice they’ve actually found helpful. These little nuggets of wisdom aren’t FDA-approved, but when used correctly side effects may include: self-care, acceptance and a little more patience with yourself.

Here’s some advice that’s actually helped people with mental illness:

1. “On a particularly difficult day, I was trying to fight through an anxiety attack and finish all the child-related tasks I needed to complete. My husband kept offering help, and I kept refusing. He pulled me aside in the laundry room as I was frantically folding another load and said, “Just let me help you.” It doesn’t immediately make the anxiety go away, but it’s helped me learn to let go.” — Maria Heldreth

A quote from Maria Heldreth that says, "Just let me help you."

2.Don’t wait. See a doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be embarrassed. Chances are, someone knows exactly what you’re going through.” — Kristin Salber

3. “I have depression and anxiety (as well as other chronic medical conditions), and after the worst week I’ve had in a while, my doctor  said, “Find something you enjoy, and if you can’t find that, find the joy in something.” This really had an impact on me and still reminds me to look for a silver lining.” — Faith Merryn

4. “I have generalized anxiety disorder, and I made friends with someone who’s extremely similar to me. She told me to always be myself and the people who truly care will stick around. It truly did help.” — Julia Ann Lange

5.Words can hurt to say, but they need to come out. Write all those words down on paper.” — Melissa Cote

Quote from Melissa Cote that says, "Words can hurt to say, but they need to come out. Write all those words down on paper."

6. “A friend recently told me that no matter if I get a job one day or not, your life matters as long as you can make people smile. When I think of it that way, it’s easier to see my life as something of worth.” — Emma Wozny

7. “A great therapist I had told me to focus on ‘harm-reduction, not perfection.’ I felt like I was expected to magically ‘get better,’ and she helped me learn that starting with baby steps was totally OK.” — Jen Decker

8. “Someone said, ‘I’ve been here, I know a way out, I’m here to show you too.’ And, ‘It gets better, it may not leave, but it gets better. And it has.” — Tom Everman

9. “I have anxiety and major depressive disorder. This is going to sound ridiculous, but my best friend once told me, “When you’re sad, watch ‘The Simpsons.’” It actually works when I’m panicking, too. It gets my mind off whatever I’m obsessing about, and I usually end up laughing.” — Dawn Czarnecki Seshadri

10. “It wasn’t long after my diagnosis that I was told pretty bluntly: ‘This illness is has no cure. You’re going to carry this illness for the rest of your life. So you can either wallow in the weight of that, or you can fight for your only life and make it a good story.’” — Lyss Trayers

Quote from Lyss Trayers that says, "You're going to carry this illness for the rest of your life. So you can either wallow in the weight of that, or you can fight for your only life and make it a good story."

11. “My depression and anxiety stem from a traumatic childhood. Just hearing ‘it wasn’t your fault‘ from my psychologist was incredibly helpful.” — Kathrine Elise

12.Don’t always believe what your brain is telling you.” — Kerri Lewis Brock

13.It’s OK to feel sad. You don’t need to pretend.” — Allyson White

14.The best advice: Treat yourself as if you were a good friend.” — Julie Jeatran

Quote from Julie Jeatran that says, "Treat yourself as if you were a good friend."

15.Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small, instead of dwelling on all the things we perceive as failures.” — Jennifer Northrup

16. “I have post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. When I was in intensive outpatient therapy, the counselor looked at us and said, ‘It’s over. That moment is over. It isn’t going to happen again.’ For some reason, that resonated with me.” — Nicole Hanes

17. “They told me this: ‘You are not broken; you are a whole person. You are just human. A human who is living, learning and growing. And learning, living and growing comes with bumps in the road. Remember that this is just a bump.‘” — Kallie Kieffer

18.Your worst days will only be 24 hours. — Arielle Smith

Quote from Arielle Smith that says, "Your worst days will only be 24 hours."

19.You wouldn’t skip a dialysis or chemotherapy appointment. Your therapy appointments are just as important. No excuses.” — Jennifer Davis

20. “‘I think you need to give therapy a try.‘ Thanks to that, I started therapy and I’m now on the path to recovery.”  — Julianne Leow

21.Your struggles are your accomplishments in disguise.” — Katherine J Palmer

22.Remember: Depression lies. Don’t believe it.” — Beth Brogan

Quote from Beth Brogan that says, "Remember: Depression lies. Don't believe it."

23.Always ask for help. There is never any shame in asking for help.” — Meghan Shultz

24.Take life 5 minutes at a time.” — Stephanie Lynn

25.You can’t give everyone else everything you have. You absolutely have to save a little of yourself for yourself.” — Shawn Henfling

26.I am a human being. Not a human doing. I just have to be.” — Michelle Balck

Quote from Michelle Balck that says, "I am a human being. Not a human doing. I just have to be."

Answers have been edited and shortened. 

RELATED VIDEOS


Checking myself into a mental health unit because I was suicidal and needed to keep myself safe was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’ve been hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and behaviors (including self-harm) more times than I can count. Sometimes I was forced to go and sometimes I checked myself in voluntarily.

During those times in the hospital, I felt so unloved and unlovable. I hated myself and didn’t think anyone else cared about me either. Many people in my position share these thoughts, and when that feeling grows it can seem unbearable.

So, if you’ve recently been admitted to a mental health unit or a psychiatric hospital, there are a few things I want you to know as someone who’s been there:

First of all, you’re doing the right thing. I know it may feel like you’ve hit the lowest point in your life right now, but please know it takes an enormous amount of courage and bravery to admit you need help. Good for you for recognizing that and getting the help you need.

Secondly, please know you’re not alone. There are many people who’ve done what you’re doing and there will be plenty of others who need to take care of themselves in the future. Make the most out of your stay in the hospital. It might not be fun, but it can be the start to healing. Go to groups, talk with your nurses and be honest with your doctor about what treatments are working and which are not. Take advantage of your resources — both in your community and from your family and friends. They are there to help you recover.

Thirdly, please try not to let stigma get you down. It’s hard to admit you’re at a hospital for mental health reasons. Some people might make you feel bad, but don’t let that in. You’re strong and brave for getting the help you need, and it will pay off!

And lastly, if you don’t remember anything else I’ve said, please remember you are loved! I believe you were put on this Earth with a purpose. I care about you, and I know so many others care about you, too. Take that to heart and work on healing your mind and body.

No one should feel bad for taking care of themselves.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

Megan is the founder of Jogging 4 Journals. She’ll be running one 5k every month to raise money to buy journals for inpatients at her local hospital’s mental health unit. Her goal is to deliever 30 journals every month. To learn more, visit her Facebook page


Photographer Natalie McCain first caught our attention last year when she posted a moving portrait series of moms of children with special needs as part of The Honest Body Project. Her latest installment focuses on raising awareness for mothers with mental illness.

In “The True Faces of Depression: A Series to End the Stigma Against Mental Illness,” McCain’s goal is to “help break down walls and encourage those struggling to speak up and get help.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults in the United States experience mental illness in a given year, and “stigma is one of the most challenging aspects of living with a mental health condition.”

McCain developed The Honest Body Project to “help women everywhere learn to love their bodies and themselves,” and she’s published photo essays on a range of topics, including cancer, fertility and loss.

The women in McCain’s latest piece don’t reveal their names, but they talk in depth about their experiences with depression, postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, among other mental illnesses. Here’s a few excerpts of what they had to say:

Mom breastfeeding baby and holding kids

Mother smiling while holding her two children

Mother smiling while holding her children

“Things I’d say to a mama with PPD … Breathe with me. You are safe. Breathe with me. You can calm yourself. Breathe with me. You can handle this. These moments are tough and you are not alone. Be kind to yourself. Remember mistakes are opportunities for learning and imperfections do not equal inadequacies. You are enough. Every day you are doing your best…we all are. We are brave for trying! We are all in this together. Get the help you need.”

A mother holds her young son and smiles

Woman with glasses holds her young son

A woman smiles as she holds her yawning baby

“I’ve struggled with depression my whole life, for as long as I can remember … During pregnancy I surprisingly did not have any feelings of depression. It wasn’t until post partum that it really hit … I felt out of control. I felt angry and frustrated I was feeling this way. I was supposed to be the happiest person ever! I had a gorgeous new baby and I couldn’t even bring myself to get out of bed and enjoy him. After several months of seeing someone for professional help, I am now functioning pretty well. I work part time, enjoy spending time with my family and most of all my son. There are still bad days. There are still days I break down crying at work.”

A mother gazes adoringly at her two children

A woman holds her young son in her arms

A mother hugs her son while seated

“Depression is as real of a disease as cancer. If someone tells you they have cancer, you don’t doubt them and tell them it’s in their head. I wish that mental illness didn’t carry this stigma.”

A smiling mom plays with her young son

A mom sits on the floor holding her two kids

A mom shows off a tattoo on her stomach and holds her kids

“I wish more people knew how serious depression was. People like myself just blow it off like its nothing. Like its someone looking for attention or them just not being happy. But it is so much more than that. And until you have seen someone suffer from it or even felt it yourself you wouldn’t know. I would never wish this on anyone. If you have these thoughts or feelings, if you think its depression talk to someone. Talk to anyone. Get help. You are worthy. Don’t let it get as bad as I let mine get. Its ok to be on medicine, it was the best decision of my life.”

A mom holds her two children

A smiling mother cradles her infant

A mom affectionately holds her baby

“Dear New Mother in the Depths of PPD (aka, November 2012 Self),

It will get better. Repeat after me: “It will get better.” You are strong. You have been through and are going through a major life and hormonal change. Your feelings are valid and you deserve to be heard. You deserve to feel better. Many things are contributing to this stage you are at. And you have the power to take control of yourself and make a change. Keep “it will get better” as your mantra. When that new miracle baby is crying non-stop for hours (or even minutes) on end, put him in his rock & play sleeper for a minute, go to the bathroom, put on a fresh nursing bra and shirt, drink some water and come back. It will get better. When you are alone in the house because your husband is at work and your friends and family have gone back home, and all the frozen meals they brought you have been eaten, and all the “congratulations on the new baby!” cards and gifts have been put away, and you haven’t slept more than one hour at a time in 4 months, and you don’t want to pick that screaming baby up, say out loud “it will get better.” And then call someone you can trust. Don’t worry that they will hear that baby screaming in your arms. If you trust them and they listen to you, it is worth it and they will understand. Your thoughts are important and should be treated as such. It will get better. Call your insurance. Get a referral to a therapist. Know that if you have to go on medication to feel better, that YOU and your mental health are the top priority. Even if that means you have to stop nursing. Your baby will get formula and grow up healthy and strong. Even if that means you have to get a babysitter once a week so you can go to therapy. Your baby will be safe and fine when you return. Even if that means you call your husband at work and make him come home because the thoughts you are having are so dark that they scare you. You will get through this just like you have gotten through childbirth and many other difficult times in your life. It will get better. You have what it takes to make sure of that. Now, go get yourself a piece of chocolate, put that baby in the stroller and get some fresh air and a fabulous coffee. And call your insurance. Go!

Love, 

Someone Who Has Been There (aka – Your Future Self with an infant and a toddler who still goes to therapy once a week and is finding joy in motherhood and the simplicity of slowing things down)”

A mother holds her two children and smiles

A mother snuggles up to her son

Somber woman poses in her underwear

“Having a mental disorder does not define who a person is. If anything you should realize how strong that person is because every single day is a struggle just to survive, and they are defying all the emotions raging inside them and pushing through. They are strong beyond belief.”

A serious mother poses with her young child

Mom smiles as she holds her baby

Mother holding her young child

I felt so sad. I cried for no reason. I cried for every reason. I felt alone. My husband tried to help. God bless him, he was my rock. He never stopped loving me. He wanted nothing but to help me but I worried he would not know what to do with Emmy or not do things the way I did. I did not let him provide any care those early days. I felt my life was gone. It would never be back to any kind of normal, not even a new normal. I was not sure I could be a mom. I loved this tiny human more than words, but had I made a mistake? I felt selfish for thinking those thoughts. I felt guilt. So much guilt.”

Mother holding her baby daughter

Happy mom holding her child

Smiling mother holding her child

“Growing up, my mom suffered from bouts of severe depression, and I always wondered why she couldn’t just snap out of it. Why she didn’t just choose to get out of bed and take care of my sister and I. But as I walked through my own journey, I realized that it can control you. It makes you a slave and traps you in a dark cave and makes you fell like you don’t want to be any better. It makes you feel like you will never get better, so why make an effort at life.  But I want people, moms, dads, friends, everyone to understand that it doesn’t have consume you. It can be suffocating but you have to fight for your life. Really fight for it. Because nothing is better than coming out on the other side. That first ray of light after the darkness is enough to satisfy your whole life and then some.”

When asked what inspired the shoot, McCain explained that while photographing women for The Honest Body Project she noticed that a common theme was their experience with mental illness. “I wanted to create a series that focuses on this to help show how there are so many women struggling with this and they don’t necessarily ‘look’ depressed,” McCain told The Mighty.  “Most people struggle in silence, which is so hard to do. I wanted to inspire people to speak up and break the silence. So many women with postpartum depression fake smiles and tell their friends they are okay, when in fact they are really struggling and could use the support. It’s heart breaking to think of a new mom being afraid to reach out and ask for help when she needs it so badly. I hope that my series will help inspire women who are struggling to reach out and speak about their struggles. There is no reason to struggle in silence.”

All images courtesy of Natalie McCain/The Honest Body Project

To see more visit The Honest Body Project’s website and Facebook page.


If you are affected by mental illness, The Mighty wants to hear your response to this question: What’s one excuse you made before you sought treatment for your mental health? Send us your video response, and it might be used in a video for The Mighty! Here’s our last video, and a summary of our video tips for filming your response:

  • When using a cellphone, hold it horizontally with two hands if you can. Don’t hold it vertically.

Hand Position

  • If using a video camera, be sure it is on a tripod or held by another person.
  • Try to answer the question in 5 – 15 seconds.
  • Use plenty of natural light. If inside, have your face towards the window. You don’t want the sun or a window behind you — it creates a silhouette and we won’t be able to see you.

StandingPosition

  • Record in a quiet place.
  • Speak clearly & concisely. Be sure your hand is not over the microphone. Play through the video before submitting to make sure you can hear yourself.

Please submit your video to [email protected] by January 18th. Please note: Every clip cannot be included in what is published. However, every response will be used internally, to help make our approach to mental health coverage as informed & supportive as it can be.

Related: ‘One Thing I Want Someone With a Mental Illness to Know Is…’


The Mighty teamed up with Bring Change 2 Mind and asked the question, “What’s one thing you want someone with a mental illness who’s going through a hard time to know?”

Their responses were fantastic. If you live with a mental illness, here’s what our communities want you to know:


The New Year has only just begun, and I have already witnessed people’s determination to “do right” by their resolutions for 2016 — gym memberships are skyrocketing and it has never been so crowded, restaurant goers are waiving dessert and choosing salad over steak, parents stating they will show more patience toward their toddlers, couples vowing to spend more time together rather than staying late at work, friends working to be there for each other regardless of distance, and people posting on social media that in order to be more present in their lives they will be unplugging more frequently.

Everyone is putting forth effort to make positive changes by doing things they believe will enhance their lives. They are reminded to do this once a year. I have to do this every day.  

The so-called “New Year’s resolution” is not an annual extravagant goal for me but a regular occurrence in my life. There is little fanfare that goes with it, and often as I master one item I have resolved to complete, I add another to the list. My life is hard, unfair and cruel, sometimes more than what others might experience. There are so many “big” things to work on when you have multiple intertwined mental health issues. My goals and resolutions may be similar to the ones other people make each year, but more often than not they are specific to the daily challenges I face and the way I see myself. For me, there is always another hurdle, another mountain to climb, another unmarked road to travel, and it is my resolve that continues to get me through in one piece.

Through all my grit, determination, and resilience, there is one thing that I have always struggled to do — really allow myself to see how far I have come. 2015 has probably been my most stable and healthiest year, and yet as midnight hit, all I could think of was how I needed to do more to be better, better than myself. So I’m turning the “New Year’s resolution” on its head. These are my “New Year’s reflections.”

I completed a graduated program, had a job created for me, didn’t stay overnight in a hospital, had 365 days of 100 percent medication compliance, have begun to love all of who I am, have gone geographically and socially outside my comfort zone, have climbed out of the darkest of places in my head, brought myself down from the highest highs and so much more.

Sometimes it can be hard for me to feel proud of these things that for me have been such a struggle to achieve but for others are just part of the daily grind. My path has not been straight nor has it been what I have expected. This year I realize that any further navigation will depend on my ability to look back at the path behind me. The detours haven’t stopped me, and I am sure there will be more. Most of the accomplishments I mentioned are things that a year or two ago I never imagined I could ever achieve. They were so “big” I couldn’t even picture them; the images just wouldn’t come. 

I would be naïve to believe my good year means I can stop doing the work. But it remains true that I can’t resolve to do anything to better my life without reflecting back on what I have accomplished. I am so immensely hard on myself. And I have come a long, long way.

Ariel outdoors with the ocean in the background
Ariel outdoors with the ocean in the background

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.