Editor Columns

Column: Getting Help is OK

Health: Mental, Physical, and Emotional

In our world today, the practice of tolerating and accepting others despite their physical appearance or racial or socioeconomic background has been widely promoted and encouraged.  However, this practice often fails to include one major aspect of life in need of acceptance: mental “disorders”.

Would you tell a friend or parent to “shake off” a broken wrist?  When people are dealing with mental health issues, symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal. Many times, those in emotional distress are told to “get it together” or to “pull yourself out of it” by family members or close friends when they should be urged to seek treatment.  These types of comments are discouraging to those who are dealing with serious afflictions.  Mental and emotional disorders are no less in need of treatment than physical ones.  

A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines as it makes typical, daily activities, like work, school and socializing with other people, difficult. There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness; some of the more common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.  

Mental illness results from a combination of neurobiology and psychological influences; it may be caused by a reaction to genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, excessive stress from one’s environment, a particular situation, or a series of events, or a combination of these, not a weakness in character as some people fail to realize and some victims fear it to be perceived as.  In fact, a true demonstration of strength and courageousness of character can be observed by those in therapy, a process that requires a distressed person to reveal, discuss, and wrestle with the most challenging, or even traumatizing, issues in their life.

Every year, roughly one in five adults—or more than 40 million Americans—experience a diagnosable mental health condition.  Despite the staggering numbers of those affected by mental illness, there is a social stigma placed on victims; they often avoid seeking treatment or disclosing their condition with others due to shame for their condition and fear of feeling unsupported, misunderstood, and vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others.

  It is important for each of us to be understanding and supportive of those who suffer from disorders.  Cries for help may be coming from a close friend or family member, and their cries may have been left unheard, disregarded, or wrongfully misinterpreted as a cry for attention.  Realize that these cries for “attention” are really cries for the help that someone in suffering deserves to receive.

However, symptoms may not always be detectable or evident, and a neighbor, a family member, close friend, or that “perfect” peer on campus may be suffering in silence.    A neighbor, grandparent, parent, sibling, or friend may be suffering from mental or emotional illnesses, and you may not even be aware of it.  In fact, often times, even best friends or parents to their children are largely unaware of the true difficulties that lie within each person.

If you or someone you know may have a mental or emotional problem, remember there is hope and help available. If you plan on confiding in a trusted family member, friend, or mentor, think ahead on how you would like to be supported and how someone can best help you.   Consult a professional as soon as possible because early identification and effective intervention is the key to recovery, successfully treating the disorder, and preventing future disability.  Mental health conditions may not just be affecting you; do not feel alone in your struggles or ashamed by them. With proper care and treatment, many individuals learn to cope with a mental illness or emotional disorder and live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Categories: Editor Columns

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