Mental health is so important yet no one talks about it. People get so wound up on this idea of living perfect normal lives. Well guess what? That is not reality. History has proved that going through a mental health crisis is in fact normal for BOTH men and women. There are people you may know suffering silently with depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar, etc but are afraid to speak up due to stigma. Understanding where you are in your mental health, knowing the facts about mental illness, how to get or urge someone you know to seek help is extremely important to recovery. But first we all have to admit to ourselves when and if there is a problem.
What is Stigma?
Stigma of mental illness follows most people that are diagnosed and whether they should tell anyone. When people think of mental illness they automatically think of people in a psychiatric ward. Psychiatric wards are not the only places that people can get help. It may also be the last place you want to put someone who is emotionally distressed unless they are a danger to themselves and others. Thinking that because someone has bipolar they are incapable of holding a job is a stigma.
1 in 4 AMERICANS SUFFER WITH MENTAL ILLNESS
That’s a lot of people! 1 in 10 Young adults have suffered with a major period of depression, myself included. I can now speak on the topic because I know that I don’t want to ever go back into to that dark place. And the main reason I believe it’s important to share our stories (in a personal environment unless you feel comfortable otherwise). 1 in 20 Americans live with major mental health illnesses such as bipolar, schizophrenia, etc. But the questions we must ask are why and how do we prevent and live healthy/progressive lives in case of long-term major illness.
EXPERIENCE SHAPES US
Life is like a rollercoaster, we have our ups and then we have our downs, but some people just never get back up. I know from personal experience. Living in poverty, single parent homes, and lack of education makes you more susceptible to depression. Not to take away from anyone facing their own struggles with depression but being an African-American I feel that there is a HUGE stigma clouding mental health and recovery. In general we are also more susceptible due to a host of different things, primarily discrimination, and when we do it is more chronic/severe without ever receiving proper treatment. (And I do plan to dive deep into this specific topic another time.)
COPING WITH DEPRESSION (FOR ME)
I believe in God and his decree and knowing that everything happens for a reason. But simply having faith is not enough when you’re facing mental distress. We have to address the problems in our lives to understand why we feel the way we do, remove them if possible along with making gradual changes. My anxiety/depression is associated with childhood sexual abuse by a “fake uncle” (not a relative but family friend). It started when I was really young until I knew what was going on. I was scared to talk to the investigators, so the case was closed. Then I was raped the year I graduated high school by a guy I liked and trusted. In both cases I was embarrassed, ashamed, didn’t want anyone to know so I refused to press charges. The messed up part about it is I still feel both events were partially my fault even though I had no control in either situations. I regret not pressing charges everyday of my life…
Sexual Abuse Statistics: 1 out of every 6 women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. 17.7 million women have been victims of attempted or completed rape. 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12. Every 107 seconds someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. Approximately 4/5 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. 47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance. 68% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police. 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. But even when the crime is reported, it is unlikely to lead to an arrest and prosecution. Factoring in unreported rapes, only about 2% of rapists will ever serve a day in prison.
Victims of sexual assault are: 3 times more likely to suffer from depression. 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol. 26 times more likely to abuse drugs. 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide. *All statistics taken from RAINN
The healing process for me involves acknowledging my feelings when I remember (rather than ignoring them until I am depressed), not blaming myself, and forgiveness, which I am okay with some of the time and others not so much. I want to forgive the people in my life that hurt me but I know I don’t have to in order to heal. I don’t want to be a victim but a survivor. I’m still learning, healing, sharing, bringing awareness, staying aware of my mental health status and believe that everyone should see a psychologist at some point in their life. A year ago I was approved for peer counseling and I’m still waiting for training in my area, and I think that by doing this it would be beneficial towards my long-term growth and healing.