Bringing Awareness To Mental Illness

For far too long, mental illnesses has been hidden away from society. An ugly reality that most people refuse to face. The statistics are dizzying, the stories are tragic, from police encounters that end with death, to suicides. Lives that are cut too short. More often than not, it’s teens and young adults who often share the brunt of the burden.

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five teens live with a mental disorder, depression being the most common. Only a quarter of those suffering from a mental illness seek treatment. Sadly, a few turn to suicide as a solution, which is the third leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds.

There are a number of reasons why most can’t seek any help such as limited resources and the fear of stigma.

Beatriz E. Mendoza, a communications volunteer at NAMI of Miami, said, “Stigma is very prevalent and damaging. It prevents children and parents from seeking professional help, brings shame to the sufferer and the family for something they cannot control as their health.”

It is for this, and other reasons, why mental illness is heavily cloaked in silence.

But there is still reason for hope. There are plenty of resources that offer help and support to those suffering. Miami Dade College has mental health counselling available. The Switchboard of Miami also offers counselling and referral services. Even beauty brands, such as Philosophy, are bringing awareness with their Hope & Grace campaign. They created the hashtag #IAmStigmaFree.

Brave individuals have decided to speak out and be candid on their struggles. The tragic death of actor/comedian Robin Williams also brought the issue to light. How many more deaths and tragedies need to occur in order to have a meaningful dialogue on mental health?

“My bipolar disorder has made my life, both personal and school, exceptionally difficult,” said Jessica Novick, an international relations major at Wolfson Campus who suffers from bipolar disorder. “I would either be crying to the point where I wouldn’t leave my room for days, or so manic I went on shopping sprees that put me in $50,000 in debt.”

As someone who suffers from a mental illness, I know the daily struggles of fluctuating moods and the overwhelming burden of depression. When I was at my worst point, I thought of a passage from Andrew Solomon’s book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression: “Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don’t believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills… Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason.”

The time has come to break the silence and end the stigma. To offer hope to those trapped in  hopeless places.

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