2018-05-16 / Community View

VIEW POINT

Stigma is toxic to talking about mental illness; help available

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the need to maintain the wellness of one’s psyche is just as important as maintaining physical health, but the stigma of discussing mental health issues is still very much prevalent.

Mental illnesses affect 19 percent of the adult population, 46 percent of teenagers and 13 percent of children each year. Anyone can struggle with maintaining mental health, and mental health afflictions supersede social borders. Someone in your family, your next door neighbor, the person who works in the next cubicle or sits in the same church pew could be afflicted, yet it’s still a topic not frequently broached.

Only half of those affected by issues regarding mental health receive the treatment they need in this country, often because that silence surrounding the subject, but mental illness has as great an impact as physical health, contributing to higher medical expenses, poorer performance at school and work, fewer employment opportunities and increased risk of suicide.

The biggest reason so many downplay mental health is the erroneous concept that “it’s all in your head.” A mental illness is physical, whether it’s chemical imbalance, degenerative disorders or the result of trauma. It doesn’t just go away with positive thinking or well wishes. Telling someone to “just get over it” is like telling someone with a broken leg that if they just stopped being a baby about it they could run a marathon.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five Americans is affected by mental health conditions. Stigma is toxic to their mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment. The perception of mental illness won’t change unless society learns to accept that the causes and effects of mental illness are as serious as physical ones and demand the same level of care.

There are resources available locally if you or someone you know is afflicted with mental illness. Lapeer County Community Mental Health (www.lapeercmh.org/) provides a wide range of professional mental health and related services for all residents of Lapeer County, as well as for institutions and agencies serving our communities. Lapeer County Community Mental Health also maintains a Suicide Prevention Network that can be reached 24/7 by calling the Lapeer County Community Mental Health at 810-667-0500. More help is available by calling the McLaren Lapeer Region Hope Line at 810-667-5611 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800- 273-TALK (8255).

Help is out there. Don’t put it off because of stigma.

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