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I'm a Mental Health Technician. Here's What I Wish People Knew About Mental Illness.

I work as a mental health technician on a short-term, adult inpatient psychiatric unit. One of my job assignments is to run group therapy. I love running group! During group, all the patients can come together and express how they’re feeling in a completely judgment-free zone, something we don’t always experience in the real world. The inspiration behind this article is one of my favorite and most popular groups: “What I Wish People Knew About Mental Illness.”

I was inspired by a story I saw circulating online about a teacher who posed a similar question to her students. What did they wish their teacher knew about them? Some of the answers were silly or cute, but some were much deeper than that. Kids expressed their worries and difficulties with their families and home lives. These were issues this teacher would have never been aware of if she hadn’t chosen to give this assignment. And after becoming aware, she could better direct her attention to each student in the way they needed it.

This story captivated me. I immediately believed this could be applied to mental health. Many times, individuals find it difficult to truly express what they are going through with their mental health struggles (myself included). We wish so badly the people we love, the professionals we work with and greater society knew our inner turmoil, but we just can’t always form the words.

This is what we discuss in group. In our judgment-free, open discussion, compassionate zone, we express the things we wish we could communicate to these important people in our lives. The group consists of three questions: What I wish my family knew, what I wish my therapist/psychiatrist knew and what I wish society knew. The following are real answers provided by real patients at the hospital I work at.

What I wish my family knew:

There is a way to recover from mental illness.

It’s a condition that comes and goes, some days are worse than others.

Please be patient, I want you with me to share my joys and make great memories.

I don’t want to have a label slapped on me and to be sidelined as “defective.”

Sometimes I may be distant, but I do not mean to leave them out or hurt them.

It’s not just me.

I’m not a monster.

Don’t use my mental illness to your advantage.

We aren’t crazy. 

What I wish my therapist/psychiatrist knew:

Not all medicine helps cope with your condition.

I know my body better than anyone.

What it’s like to be on the receiving end of treatment.

Sometimes I feel defective despite all the support I get from my doctors.

They made a huge difference in my life and I am very thankful for them.

Some people can cope without taking medication.

I am thankful for their help.

I’m afraid of the side effects from taking medication.

I’m not something that needs to be fixed.

I am trying and I am committed to getting better. 

What I wish society knew:

Even though I might be ill, no one should treat me as an outsider.

Most of society suffers from one type of mental illness or another.

Don’t hate the person, hate the disorder.

Just because I suffer from several mental illnesses does not mean that I am crazy or harmful to myself or others.

There’s help for mentally ill people. We can be part of society.

Mental illness isn’t contagious.

Being told my illness is a problem, is the problem!

I am just as capable as anyone else, my thought process is just different.

My illness does not define me. 

Whether you struggle with mental illness or not, you are probably a family member or friend of someone with a mental illness. No matter if you are a mental health professional or not, we can all learn from what these patients are saying. Each and every one of us is part of society. We dictate the way mental illness is perceived, and how individuals with mental illness are responded to. And we are capable of changing it. Let’s create a more compassionate, understanding and non-judgmental world, together.

This is what I want you to know about mental illness. 

Getty Images photo via g-stockstudio

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