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Why We Should Treat Mental Health Like Getting a Mammogram

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I have a sneaking suspicion that if you are reading this, then you have some kind of personal tie to a person who has or had a mental illness (maybe even you). 

Today I’ve decided that mental health education is a bit like a mammogram or breast cancer screening. Hear me out. I am lucky to not have a history of breast cancer in my family. And now I will admit, I don’t do self-exams (yes, I know I should). And I often scroll past articles that I am sure would be important reads for myself and others about advances in breast cancer treatments. I might think, “Oh that looks interesting” and not take the time to click on it. Breast cancer is not really on my radar. What if I had a good friend who was diagnosed? Or a family member? Or myself? I would be subscribed to every newsletter, blog, organization or anything else I could to get information and support. I do get mammograms, and encourage other women in my life to do the same. And that is about as far as I go. And I sincerely hope my loved ones are getting screened so that if something is found, it will be early enough for the best possible treatment and outcome.

Unfortunately, society doesn’t have anything on par with mental mammograms or regular mental health screenings of any sort.  This means for many, many people it takes a tragedy to become truly informed about mental illness. Think of the news. I’ve been reading about schools and communities doing incredible things to help, after they’ve experienced a devastating loss. 

What are “they” waiting for? And how can “we” help? If you have been affected by mental illness, you may not be ready to stand and scream about your experience, and that’s OK. And you can still be a part of ending the stigma and work towards a better, more in-depth education – especially for our youth. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could create a mental mammogram where we could catch irregularities earlier? Get involved so we can help people when they are not in a crisis or when they have experienced a death by suicide. 

I don’t have the answers. In fact I have many more questions… This is not an easy topic, but it is such an important one. Please start talking – or at least sharing – whether it is my blog or anything else you find that resonates with you. As I think more about how I plan to move forward, you’ll hear more from me.

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Thinkstock photo via fotocelia

Originally published: October 15, 2017
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