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What You Should Know About Opening Up About a Mental Illness

As everyone knows, there has been a stigma surrounding mental illness for decades. In recent years the discrimination has been challenged by movements such as #BellLetsTalk, among others. By now, the average person knows that if you are diagnosed with a mental illness, you should reach out and seek help. However, the stigma surrounding the subject remains. From experience, I have learned that talking about what you’re going through during hard times can be life-saving. There are so many reasons to reach out if you’re struggling, I wanted to discuss a few of the main reasons I have found to be true. I want to continue the conversation and encourage anyone who feels they may need to talk to reach out to a professional in their area. I am in no way a professional; these are only my experiences and what I have learned through them.

1. No one can do it alone. Everyone will need support, including your supporters.

Experiencing a mental illness should be viewed as the same as a physical injury. When someone is living with a mental illness they need assistance in different ways, yes, but there are small tasks you can assist them with. Talking about mental illness is the first step to gaining support. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. Giving someone five minutes of your day to just talk to them, check-in and see how they’re doing could be exactly what they needed to stop the cycle of negative self-talk.

The supporters of those who are struggling also need a place to turn, as sometimes it can be a daunting task. Knowing it is OK to feel overwhelmed, uneasy, whatever you are feeling is an important part of being a supporter. Overall, talking is key. Checking in with those around you and having honest conversations is the best way to ensure everything is going well.

2. Opening up can be difficult. Practice.

There are far too many individuals who have died by suicide each year, and their closest friends and family weren’t aware of what was going on. So many people are afraid of reaching out in fear of being judged, labeled or victimized. This stigma has made it harder than ever to be vulnerable in possibly the most vulnerable point of your life. From personal experience, I know that in the moment, and sometimes for many too moments, it seems easier to stay quiet. I found that journaling and practicing what I was going to “one day” tell my family made it much easier to actually tell them. Yes, it can take many days, weeks, months of “practicing,” but you will get there. Finding a way to essentially rehearse what you will say, thinking about what questions you may be asked, and writing all these things down made the real deal a little less stressful for me.

3. Speak against the stigma.

The more that people open up and talk about their experiences, the more people will feel comfortable to do the same and so on. Speaking to others about what you’re experiencing can be a weight lifted off your shoulders, make you feel less alone and give an unexpected outlet that is so helpful.

4. It’s your best option!

When you really think about it, speaking up is your best option. This simple but daunting process opens the door for conversation and ultimately recovery. The other outcome of staying silent is not positive for anyone involved in the situation. There is so much to live for, and everyone has their own individual reasons. Keep those reasons close and constantly remind yourself of them. I found that having my positive affirmations written on sticky notes around my home, so I would see them on a constant basis, was a great way of reminding myself. Find what works for you, and work on it every day. Recovery may not be easy, but it is the most worthwhile process you will go through.

If you are feeling symptoms of depression or if you are feeling suicidal, there are so many anonymous and helpful organizations you can reach out to. Please reach out to someone if you are feeling helpless, I promise it is well worth it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on this topic, I hope it was helpful to someone in some way. Speaking up takes away the power of stigma, and I hope this may encourage someone to get the help they need.

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Photo by Remy_Loz on Unsplash