“The mentally ill frighten and embarrass us. And so we marginalize the people who most need our acceptance. What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close

Mental illness continues to be a difficult subject–for its high rates of occurrence and the stigmas that are attached to it. Some estimates show that up to one in four people suffer from a mental illness, including conditions like depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. However, being a person diagnosed with a mental condition can have a stigmatizing effect from family members, friends, and even coworkers. Many people do not understand mental illnesses and, therefore, tread lightly around a person with one or exclude people with them from activities. This makes it more difficult for people to come out and talk about their mental health, or even find help for an illness.

Many organizations, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), are making an effort to fight the stigma about mental illness.  

NAMI’s Stigmabusters campaign harnesses the power of many to help fight the incorrect or, even, offensive portrayals of mentally ill people in the media. By organizing across national, state, and local lines, NAMI hopes to find those places where stigmatized messages are being shown. They then ask people to send messages directly to the companies responsible for creating the pieces in an effort to stop them. You can help NAMI’s campaign by writing those messages, subscribing to their email newsletter, or alerting them about incorrect material.

Most importantly, people with mental illnesses need to be allowed to find help. Up to a third of people with a mental illness don’t get treatment for their condition. Treatment may include time with a good therapist, supportive sessions with family and friends, medication, membership in a support group, and lifestyle modifications.

Chronic pain is often related to the incidence of chronic depression in many patients. It is important, therefore, to open up to your doctor if you have depressive thoughts. He or she is trained to help and can refer you to local therapists or support groups that can help improve your mental health.

Do you, or somebody you know, suffer from a mental illness? How has treatment helped? 

Image by Alan Cleaver via Flickr

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