Carol was late for work---again. She couldn’t seem to make it out of the house without washing her hands for the twenty-fifth time. Carol has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Brenda had been on a five day high without much sleep. She went on another mad shopping spree and spent $5,000. The next day she couldn’t get out of bed she was so depressed. Brenda is BiPolar.
Sandra can’t leave her home anymore. Everything frightens her. She had a panic attack in the grocery store about a year and a half ago and now she can’t be around people anymore. Sandra has agoraphobia.
Mental health disorders are no joke---especially if you suffer from one. For Carol her OCD means that she has recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that cause her marked anxiety or distress. Her compulsion (hand washing) is a way she tries to reduce the distress or catastrophic outcomes she fears will occur if she doesn’t perform the ritual.
For Brenda, life is a mess if she forgets to take her Lithium. Incredible highs and debilitating lows are the everyday norm. Sandra experiences a racing heartbeat, lightheadedness, shaking, de-personalization and sweating. Her first panic episode happened at the grocery store one day out of the clear blue. She is terrified the symptoms will re-occur and she will be humiliated in front of other people. Over time she restricted her outings until one day she wouldn’t go out at all.
About every 13.7 minutes someone in this country intentionally ends his/her life. In 2010, 38,364 people in the United States died by suicide. Here are some alarming statistics:
- Suicide is considered to be the second leading cause of death among college students.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 25-34.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people aged 10-24.
- Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65.
- Suicide is highest in white males over 85. (51/100,000, 2010)
Ninety percent of people who die by suicide are suffering from one or more psychiatric disorders:
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder, Depressive phase
- Alcohol or Substance Abuse*
- Personality Disorders such as Borderline PD
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In order to help raise awareness about mental health disorders and what we can do to help those who are struggling with them, we need to educate our culture and learn to dialog about uncomfortable topics.
What can you do to help? If you, or a person you love is struggling with a mental health issue, learn about it. That means do some research on the topic. Then start a conversation. Talk about what you’ve learned with your friend or loved one. Speak to others when given an opportunity. Talk about your feelings. Ask others about theirs. Share your personal struggles when appropriate.
Healing doesn’t occur in isolation but as we bring difficult topics out in the open and share one another’s burdens. As a survivor of my husband’s suicide, I am passionate to teach, educate and speak out about how we can help the broken and hurting. I received so much love, care and support as I walked out my healing journey as a suicide survivor. I would not be where I am today if it were not for those people who literally laid their lives down and walked alongside of me. They didn’t get tired of listening to me. They didn’t allow my being a mess to scare them away, and they didn’t judge me for how I felt.
If you know someone who is dealing with a mental health disorder, reach out to them. Give them support and care. If you are the one struggling, have the courage to get help. Ask for the support you need. Speak out. Tell your story. It’s only in the telling that real healing occurs. Let’s commit today to do our part to stop the silence on the tough topic of mental illness. I guarantee lives will be saved. How do I know that? Because mine was.