As most of you may already know, I am a very outspoken person about my experiences with mental illness. Over the years, I’ve gone through bouts of panic attacks and depressive episodes that have shaped me into the resilient, compassionate person I am today. In retrospect, my anxiety and depression were some of the most fundamental parts of my life – not because I loved feeling “depressed,” but because I needed that experience to change and to grow.
With such life-altering experiences, it’s surprising to me that mental health issues are growing exponentially, yet nobody seems to be talking about it. Seeing a therapist, taking medication, and having a conscious checklist of coping mechanisms may seem ordinary in the life of a person experiencing bipolar disorder, but may seem “crazy” to someone who hasn’t shared the same mental illness (or any mental illness history at all).
In numerous cultures, mental illness is even frowned upon and perceived as “weakness.” I know from my own experiences that I’ve had family members, close friends, and many others personally tell me that it’s “bad” to be depressed – or even worse, it’s “just in my head” and that I’m “romanticizing” my depression.
It’s completely valid to feel depressed. It’s okay to have panic attacks. It’s fine if you experience ADHD, ADD, or anything of the like. You’re not a bad person if you have PTSD or OCD.
These feelings are valid. It’s okay to feel.
I love autumn – not merely because of the changing colors of nature or the gradually cooler days, but because of the grand approach of National Suicide Prevention Week. Suicide is another taboo within our society, but by shedding light on this traumatic action that about 1 million Americans take each year, we can prevent further cases and demolish the stigma surrounding mental health.
National Suicide Prevention Week helps people like me to not feel ashamed of our battle with mental illness, but to bring us together as a community and to raise awareness of those who are currently struggling with those dark thoughts. It’s a way for us to reach our hands out to suicidal children, youth, adults, and veterans and tell them, “You are not alone.” It’s a way for young ones to express their emotions without judgment and feel as if they have a safe space away from the people in their lives who are berating them for it. It’s a way to bring nations, communities, and families together despite the tumult afflicting a suicidal person’s life.
If you are struggling, please reach out to me or those around you who love and cherish your life. Don’t feel ashamed for your emotions. Don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed for feeling this way – even if it’s someone you hold dear to your heart.
If you know someone who is struggling, please talk to them. You don’t have to ask what their situation is, but just let them know that you are there for them in case they need someone to talk to. Provide them with guidance and love, and never share their emotions with anyone else unless they state they want to kill themselves.
Look out for your friends, even if they appear to be fine on the outside.
Let’s fight to de-stigmatize mental illness, and share our support by participating in National Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16, 2017)! For more information and ways you can help, please click here.