Why Reaching Out Is Important When You Have a Mental Illness

People are important. Reaching out is important. A text can save a life. Today I am grateful for my friends.

For years, I was convinced I needed to deal with everything on my own — that my problems were mine alone, and letting people in was the worst possible thing I could do for them, and for me. Depression convinces you that you are worthless — worth less than everybody else — so what right do you have to inflict yourself on other people? Who are you to ask for anything from anyone?

I personally find it very difficult to ask for help with anything. I think this is true for a lot of people. We live in a world where admitting weakness very often results in a loss of respect from those around us. People take advantage. Survival of the fittest has created a culture of fear: fear of honesty; fear of judgment; fear of being seen a less than. In some cases, even physical illness is seen as a personal weakness. But there is a particular feeling of superiority when it comes mental health problems. Born out of a lack of understanding, perhaps. Well, I’d like to think.

To a large extent, mental illness is invisible. People struggle in silence, develop coping mechanisms — some healthy, some not. So unless someone reaches crisis point, the people around them are very unlikely to know there is a problem. And if your only experience of mental health problems is seeing someone in crisis, it all becomes a bit big and scary. But what if we were all more honest about our daily struggles? What if admitting to anxiety was no more remarkable than telling people you had a headache? Are we ready for that? Do we even have the language necessary to have these discussions? It’s hard to say things, articulate things, that people have a limited understanding of.

But it is important to talk. Whether it’s sending a text, messaging on social media sites, leaving a comment on a blog, meeting up for a coffee and a chat or sending a good old-fashioned letter. These are things that can help. It’s important to reach out, to let people in. It may seem scary. You may stare at that send button for ages before working up the courage to press it. But believe me, it’s amazing the weight that lifts afterward. Just knowing someone else knows can make a huge difference to how much strength you have to cope with difficult situations.

So, I guess what I’m saying is this: if you know someone who’s having a hard time, contact them. Let them know they’re not alone. And if you’re struggling, I know it’s hard sometimes to see anything outside yourself. But people are there. And want to help. A text could be the first step.

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