As a mental health professional, I feel its important to educate people on mental illness as a whole. I feel it is important for the the public to be aware of what mental illness is, what mental illness is not, and how to be supportive of those suffering.
I will be writing a more in-depth series on mental health but I thought a brief introduction would be helpful.
Mental illness (or disorders) are often referred to as invisible illness. The primary reason for this is quite simple: a person with a mental illness will not present with obvious, visible symptoms. A person with the flu will cough, be feverish, possibly vomit, etc. A person with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness is not going to show even remotely as visible symptoms. Honestly, most symptoms that would present outwardly could easily be mistaken in society: fatigue, restlessness, poor concentration, irritability, poor sleep, and more. I mean, most people in the work force meet that description on a Monday.
Mental illness is not uncommon. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the United States will experience mental illness in a given year. That’s approximately 20% of the population, or almost 44 million people. This is the high range of your odds of getting the flu (5-20%). One of the primary things I’ve learned is that you have met a lot of people in your life that are dealing with mental illness. I personally struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and it took me a long time to realize that I had this issue. I didn’t seek treatment until 2 years ago, but when I look back, I’ve experienced the symptoms from early childhood.
Honestly, mental illness is often misunderstood and stigmatized. I’m relatively certain that it’s considered poor taste to stigmatize a person with cancer so why do we stigmatize someone with depression? Or anxiety? Or schizophrenia? There is a great deal we do not know about mental illness at this point but researchers continue to pursue a better working knowledge of mental illnesses so we can better respond.