Letter to the Editor: Mental Illness

To the Editor:

Mental illness is all around us, whether we know it or not. Those with a diagnosed mental illness can be your neighbor, family member, friend or even you. It affects children, adults, men and women. We live in a society that makes it difficult to live and thrive with a mental illness because of the stigma around it. It is looked down upon, criticized, valued less and even dismissed.

We live in a society that tells us to “get over it” or “it is just a phase,” even though people’s lives are crumbling inside and they are afraid to ask for help. People suffer in silence every day because of the way we judge mental illness. We do not judge people for having diabetes, asthma, or cancer, and we would never tell those people to just “get over it.” Why do we do that to people with depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety?

I think as a society we need to change. We need to change the way we think about mental illness and the way we talk about it. Education is the foundation of any change. Better education in schools is one way we can start to help people understand mental illness. We need to teach people that mental illness can be caused from a chemical imbalance in the brain, traumas or major life events. It is not necessarily just someone having a rough patch.

Teaching people how to recognize when someone may be struggling and then encouraging them to seek help can be the support someone needs. This can help others feel like they are not alone and that it is not uncommon for individuals to struggle with their mental health. No one should ever feel like they are wrong for taking medications or going to therapy to improve their mental illness. Although you cannot see mental illness on the outside, it does not mean it does not exist. An individual’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. I believe that small changes will eventually lead to a big shift in the way mental illness is looked at in our society.

Olivia Gerke