Being mindful of mental illness

by William Lewandowski

In the world we live in today, most people are affected by mental illness in some way. Whether someone suffers themselves or has a relative or friend who has some sort of disorder, nearly everybody has a connection to mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 9.5% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with some sort of mood disorder, which includes but is not limited to depression, bipolar disorder, or anything else that affects someone’s ongoing moods.

I personally have been affected by mental problems for a few years. Between anxiety and depression, I understand how difficult it can be to have these sorts of issues. From the standpoint of someone who has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, coping with these without some sort of medication can be hard to deal with. Also, having friends with mental illnesses have made me open up and notice that I’m not alone. No one who has a mental disorder is alone. For people who have depression or other mood problems, it can be very tough to open up for many reasons. Some reasons why someone with depression won’t open up can stem from not wanting to bother anyone, having no motivation, or just giving up all together. Speaking up and being heard, though, is one of the best things to do for someone going through tough times and pain.

This past summer, I went into a low part of my life. It felt like I was shoveling my way out of a hole, but the hole kept growing. Finally, I emailed a professor whom I have become great friends with and went on and on about how I was feeling and what was going on. When I was completed, without hitting send, I had at least three pages of words. I felt relieved and calmed. It was amazing just to feel a sense of betterment even if I hadn’t pressed the send button. I did send it and he replied with an email that I have kept safely in a folder for whenever I do hit a low.

For people suffering, it is best to open up, even if it’s not what seems best. Releasing the tension of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc. is important for those who have them. Journaling, writing, singing, doing what you love, smiling, talking, walking, sports, shopping, things that makes one motivated or happy will boost self-esteem and push a person back out of that hole. It’s not an immediate transition by far. It takes steps and isn’t the quickest process. The best way to get the process moving is to get rid of any negativity in life. Between self-hate, self-harm, fears, and other’s expectations, it can be hard but it all be worked through with time and work. Keeping positive and a bright outlook on what’s to come is key to keeping the illnesses away. But it’s an illness, a disorder, and doing these things won’t guarantee they will stay away, but it’s a useful aid.

For people who know someone who is suffering, be an outlet. Let them open up to you. Don’t become the counselor or doctor, that isn’t your place unless you are a counselor. But let them vent, be there in support, and maybe give them some advice or a shoulder to cry on. If the situation is too much, advise them in an appropriate manner. Ask if they would be willing to go to the Hendrix clinic on campus and talk to the wonderful staff there, which is available to any student. If the situation is worse than you think, have them call the suicide hotline if the situation calls for it, or call them yourself. They may be able to give you pointers on helping a friend. For reference purposes, the suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-8255.

Mental illness is growing in the United States and it is important we as a nation take a look at what is happening around us and be aware of it all. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website, suicide is the third leading cause of death, and someone in the United States loses a life to suicide every 12.8 minutes. A vast majority of these suicide victims had a mental illness of some kind. It is essential, in today’s society, that we step back and take note of mental illness. If we focus on mental illness and aid those who are in need of help, we can save lives and lower the suicide rate as well.

September is suicide awareness month. Showing support and being there for others is a prime factor in strengthening awareness. In the Fargo-Moorhead area, on September 13th, there will be a community walk called Out of the Darkness. This walk, in association with American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, is a walk to remember those who have lost their lives to suicide and to be together in strengthening awareness of mental illness. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s description of the walk says, “With each stride, our walkers save lives, honor loved ones lost to suicide and raise funds to support AFSP’s vital mission.” To register to walk and be a part of this amazing movement to help bring awareness to mental illness and suicide, go to the AFSP’s website and search for Out of the Darkness Walk.

Mental illness is becoming a big part of society. Nearly every person has some affiliation with it or suicide. It is very important to raise awareness and to help aid those in need. By creating a perspective on mental illnesses and disorders, we can also help lower the number of suicides in the Unites States as well. Bringing mental illnesses ‘out of the darkness’ is the key to changing our view of mental illnesses and bringing hope to the people affected by them.

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