Upland, CA — Many of us have had family members, friends or neighbors that were known as “special,” “touched,” “a little off,” or just plain “crazy”. Chances are their bizarre or odd behavior was a result of an undiagnosed mental illness. For too long society has been afraid of the word mental illness, especially in communities of color. Mental illnesses are not something that we should be afraid of, they are things we need to better understand and be more sensitive and understanding of. Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior. Here is a list of some common mental illnesses/disorders: anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, phobias, bipolar, obsessive compulsive, panic attacks, and eating disorders, to name a few. Some of these conditions or disorders are occasional while some are chronic and long-lasting. The unspoken reality is, mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in this country. America must wake-up and realize that more than 50% of the population will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.
Currently one in 25 Americans live with a serious mental illness. The State of Mental Health in America report stated that COVID-19 has had disastrous effects on the mental health of our nation. Contributing factors to mental health concerns include loneliness, isolation, politics, news, financial problems, grief or loss of someone or something, past trauma and relationship problems.
The month of May has been designated as Mental Health Awareness Month and part of the purpose is to help alleviate the stigma of mental illness. Part of the reason I feel so strongly about the need for all of us to be more aware and sensitive to mental health issues is because as a child I experienced sexual abuse and abandonment. It was not until I was an adult and sought professional help that I realized how these traumatizing situations affected some of the choices I made in my life. On the outside I appeared to be fine but, on the inside, I was hurting and suffering from a low level of depression. I often compared my life to a beautifully wrapped package with a nice bow on top but inside were broken pieces of china. How the world saw me was not the reality I was living. Because I sought the help of a psychologist, I was able to understand the emotions I felt were natural and I could learn to work through them and not feel embarrassed or ashamed.
My life is a testament and a testimony to how mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. When we see certain behaviors from people we should not be so quick to judge them or make fun of them. We do not blame cancer patients for being sick or fault the person with a cast on his leg for limping, yet we are quick to assume someone’s erratic or irregular actions is a result of drugs, alcohol or poor life decisions. Here are symptoms you can look for to try and identify if a person is suffering from a mental illness: chronic sadness, confused thinking, inability to concentrate, excessive worrying, extreme feelings of guilt, mood changes, withdraw from friends and family and they no longer participate in activities, always tired, no energy and problems sleeping.
Mental illness is not a crime and those that suffer from it are not criminals, let us stop treating them this way. We can all extend grace and kindness towards others in need.
Healing Without Hate: It’s a choice. It’s a lifestyle. Pass it on!
Visit www.WendyGladney.com and www.forgivingforliving.org to learn more. Wendy is a life strategist, coach, consultant, author, and speaker. You can hear her every Wednesday on Instagram Live at 12 noon PST.