Don’t take this the wrong way – Elizabeth Ita

Everyone is vulnerable, which means everyone should be having a conversation about mental health maintenance. Mental illness or instabilities don't discriminate. 

People who and wildly successful are just as vulnerable as those who struggle.

The phrase “mental illness” is often used derogatorily. It is summarily categorized using phrases like ‘kolo mental’ and ‘he/she is mentally ill’. But strangely, we don’t talk about physical health that way. No one ever describes someone else by saying, “He’s physically ill.”

We understand that physical health is broad. Some people wear hearing aids, others wear glasses. Some others have bad knees. But we don’t group everyone together and say they’re “physically ill.” There’s no stigma or generic classification.

Mental health is a continuum, a scale or spectrum. And there’s a good chance you aren’t at the “completely mentally healthy” end of it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 17 percent of adults are functioning at “optimal mental health.” And it’s likely that no one stays functioning at optimal mental health indefinitely.  

Stress or family-related issues are just a few of the things that could affect your mental health on any given day. 

Hypertension can sometimes be avoided or managed by a healthy lifestyle. And sometimes it can’t. Yet we still talk about the importance of eating healthy, exercising, and losing weight without fear it will offend people. But when it comes to mental health, that fear is palpable because many people have a deep-rooted misconception that mental illness is a mental weakness. But talking about how to take better care of yourself shouldn’t be offensive.

Talking openly about how to build mental strength could help many people improve their psychological well-being. And while it may occasionally offend someone, it may also save a lot of lives.

What next?

All of us can help chip away at the stigma of mental illness one conversation at a time. Here are a few things you can do to help start a conversation that could change someone’s life:

  1. Talk about resources. Mental illness is treatable, but people need to know where to turn for help. Online screening tools and support groups are free of charge and available for everyone.
  2. Think about mental health as a continuum. Rather than assume you’re either mentally healthy or mentally ill, acknowledge that we all have ups and downs in life, and there are times when your mental health will be better and times it will be worse.
  3. Share your story. Talk openly about periods in your life when you’ve felt depressed or anxious. Make it clear to anyone listening that you believe mental illness can happen to anyone and it’s important to seek help.
  4. Offer to help others. Sometimes, people with mental illness struggle to recognize when they need help. Others don’t know where to turn or what to do. Your support could be just the help someone needs to reach out to a professional.

Get Rid of the Stigma

Hopefully, we’ll eventually live in a world where everyone receives regular mental health checkups the same way they get annual physicals. And people will be able to talk about depression, anxiety, or PTSD the same way someone might mention having arthritis.

Mental illness is treatable. But before we can expect people to get the help they need, we have to make sure they feel safe reaching out and asking for assistance.

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