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10 Things to Remember on World Mental Health Day

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Today is World Mental Health Day. As an advocate, writer, psychologist and patient, here are some things I think everyone should keep in mind:

1. Mental health isn’t just a topic for people struggling, their families and professionals. Like physical health, we all want to keep in “good shape,” so we have to be aware of ways our mental health is negatively affected and what to do if that happens.

2. Having a mental health issue doesn’t make you weak. In fact, accepting it gives you the strength to push back against the stigma in society and to put a face to something that many people know little about.

3. Our mental health can be hereditary. That’s why it’s so important, among many reasons, to be open with your nuclear family about your past and present mental health status. When we have open communication about our mental health, we strengthen relationships and can better help one another.

4. Going to the psychologist or the psychiatrist doesn’t mean you are “crazy.” In fact, it can be an act of self-care and self-love.

5. It can be overwhelming for both patients and families to deal with a diagnosis. So be gentle with the way you use and talk about mental illness. Don’t make jokes, instead, provide a safe space for those struggling.

6. A diagnosis doesn’t define what you are capable of doing (or not doing). You are more than a label, and even though you are dealing with some things that can make your day-to-day journey a little bit more difficult, the diagnosis doesn’t determine who you are or your limitations.

7. Acceptance is key. Many of these conditions can have long-lasting affects or come and go.

8. Not every mental health diagnosis is treated with psychiatric medications. If you do take medication, please don’t feel ashamed. And if you don’t, don’t shame others for choosing to.

9. Find joy and pleasure in little things such as your spiritual life, helping others, art, writing, practicing a sport or reading. These don’t make symptoms disappear, but it can make things easier to deal with.

10. We need to talk about suicide. Talking about it doesn’t “cause” people to feel suicidal or act on suicidal thoughts. It’s a growing public health issue that needs more attention. I think the first step to breaking the stigma is education. If you have suicidal thoughts, don’t feel like you are damaged or like you are a burden. There is help out there. You would be amazed at how many of us are/have been there.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Unsplash photo via Anete Lusina

Originally published: October 10, 2017
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