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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Mental Health Awareness Month: A little compassion goes a long way

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About 10% of people are left-handed, 8% of people have blue eyes and about 20% of adults are living with a mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “It is estimated that more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (57.8 million in 2021).”

That means it is highly likely that you or someone you know and care about is living with a mental illness. The high number of people living with mental illness shows us that we would all benefit from having an awareness about how this affects our lives.

We all have good and bad days. We all feel sad sometimes. It is normal to grieve after a loss, be upset when we lose a job, or feel stressed when the month is longer than your money. In order to meet the criteria of being considered a mental illness, however, symptoms must impact a person’s daily life and functioning over a designated period of time, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the guidebook for diagnosing a mental illness.

On average it may take a person dealing with a mental illness about 10 years before they seek professional help. People may delay getting help because they may be unaware they have a mental illness, there is concern of the stigma attached, they fear being judged, they do not know where to go or they do not have the resources to access treatment.

Imagine how many hard days a person living with mental illness, and the people who interact with them, have endured before they were able to get the help they needed. It is a very tough road – and it is even tougher when other people do not understand their struggle.

At any given moment, it is important to approach that the people we encounter daily with the awareness that they may be experiencing a mental illness. They may be receiving treatment, in between treatment or unable to receive treatment. Even when the person is receiving treatment, it takes time, often years, to overcome various challenges. Receiving the correct diagnosis, medication, and counseling regimen is a journey. As they are finding their way to wellness, people may endure a wide range of emotions and experiences that add layers of difficulty to their lives.

Since living with a mental illness is so common, having compassion for others as they navigate the bumpy road to wellbeing will help. For those of us who are not suffering, simply being aware of what another person may be going through makes a big difference. The co-worker who always seems a bit grumpy, the driver that cut you off in traffic or the store employee who did not say “‘thank you’” may not be rude or mean-spirited; they may be going through a significant challenge with their mental health.

We could all use a little help, a little kindness and a little grace at times. We can hold one another accountable while still being aware that there are brave people living with mental illness, figuring out how to face life’s many obstacles and doing their best to get through each day.

Contact Editor-in-Chief Camike Jones at 317-762-7850 or by email at CamikeJ@indyrecorder.com.

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