May is Mental Health Month and an opportunity to increase awareness about a concern that, unfortunately, is still something many people still don’t understand.
Mental health is a core component of overall health, and according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime.
While access to treatment has expanded under the Affordable Care Act, far too many people living with a mental health issue don’t seek treatment, due in part to the stigma still associated with mental illness.
One way to break the stigma is for people who are facing a mental health issue to be open about their condition and their treatment, and so to raise awareness of mental health concerns, I am coming out as someone with mental health issues.
I am a suicide attempt survivor who has struggled with depression, anxiety and dependency on alcohol. I am a living testament to the fact that mental health is treatable and manageable and that my issues are nothing to be ashamed of.
Letting others who may be suffering know that recovery is possible and that there are good people who want to help is my central motivation for sharing this, and I hope that my words will inspire someone who is struggling to reach out to a trusted friend or loved one and ask for help without fear or shame.
There are also resources available on the NAMI website at www.nami.org. There’s no need to suffer and recovery is possible.
And the link:
As I wrote in the letter and many times on the blog, I think being as open as possible is one of the best ways to reduce stigma, normalize treatment, and assist those who may be struggling. I don’t know exactly what the circulation of my local hometown paper is (their advertising guide suggests something over 200K unique monthly visitors), but the odds are pretty good that it will be seen by enough people in town who know me or maybe a family member that it won’t go unnoticed (I also sent it to the larger regional newspaper in Syracuse, where it has yet to be published and may not be). For some of my neighbors, acquaintances and even some family friends, this may be the first they’re hearing about my struggle with depression and anxiety. Part of the motivation for sending the letter is to commit to the idea that I’m living openly. While it’s one thing to be open with close friends and family, it’s another to be open within the community I live in. I’m optimistic that the reaction will be positive.
I also understand that I’m fortunate to be in a position to be open about my struggle. Because I work in a family business, I’m not jeopardizing a job opportunity by being public about this, and sadly that’s not the case for everyone who may have a mental health issue. I have the support and backing of my family and friends, again, a luxury and a privilege not everyone enjoys. But it’s precisely because I’m in this fortunate position that I feel like I have a responsibility to speak out and be an advocate. So this is me being open. This is me sharing my struggle in the hope that others come forward.
Wish me luck.