Is there a single human being on this planet that has never dealt with a hardship?! Personal turmoil? Hard days, difficult decisions, emotional hurt?
I’m pretty confident that no one reading this will say “yes, that’s me! My life has been 100% happy, positive and completely stress-free at all times!”
& THAT. IS WHY, THE STIGMA THAT SURROUNDS MENTAL HEALTH AND MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, makes absolutely no. sense. AT ALL.
We are all human beings with a complex body, soul, and spirit connection. We are made up of physical material, the body, of which can be seen and touched. We are also made up of immaterial and intangible aspects, things like our spirit, mind, intellect, will, feelings, emotions, conscience, subconscious. All of these things are basically what makes up our individual “personality”.
However, those are a lot of working parts, wouldn’t you agree? I ask, how do they all remain balanced and in-sync with one another? Honestly, sometimes when I sit down and try to understand, I think to myself – “wow, just being a human can be so challenging.”
So, it is our body that we function with. Within, we are comprised of cells, and organs like the heart. Then there is the nervous system which includes the brain. Through our body we connect with the physical world via senses like sight, scent, and touch.
But what about our thoughts? Our minds and emotions – how does all that ‘work’?
Well, our soul is what shapes our personality. The conscious mind being a part of that, which is where our reasoning and thoughts stem from. As for deep beliefs, opinions, and attitudes, well those lie in the subconscious part of the mind. Also residing there are feelings, emotions, and our memories too.
Now choices. Our will is what allows us to make choices.
But, wait. Don’t all of these things correlate to one another?! Yup. You guessed it. Through a very systematically COMPLEX way, our mind and our will connect with our body via channels such as the endocrine system (think: hormones), the nervous system (think: actions/movements), and the immune system: (think: body protection).
Our daily thoughts (remember: conscious mind) have a large impact/influence on our emotions and feelings (remember: subconscious mind), and then, in return, our emotions and feelings majorly impact/influence our behaviors (remember: will). So, in totality, thought patterns really do play a significant, if not THE MOST SIGNIFICANT role in our overall health (emotional and physical).
BUT! How many people take the time to understand all of this and its’ importance? I mean, it’s taken me many hours to write this article and that’s because understanding and articulating such complexities takes time. My hopes are that the above breakdown/explanation can spark personal grace within anyone reading this who may have a veiled understanding of mental health and overall wellness. Because the harsh reality is that most people today live extremely busy lives with little to no time to spare for what’s sadly deemed “not essential” (like balancing your body-soul-spirit connection to pursue or achieve overall wellness).
Now those facts, combined with the very real and alive MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA, makes for a VERY troubling society. With the truth being that:
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million, or 18.5%)—experiences mental illness in a given year.
Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18, 21.4% experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.
6.9% of adults in the U.S.—(16 million)—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (18.1%) experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.
Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—(10.2 million adults)—had a co-occurring mental illness.
Regardless of the staggering statistics, there is a belief that people with mental health issues are “untreatable”, or that people with mental disorders are difficult, not intelligent, or incapable of making proper decisions. This stigma can also be called (what it really is): DISCRIMINATION. Because according to reality/the above factual statistics, there is a HUGE POPULATION of people who deal with mental health issues.
Those of which majority are taught or conditioned to feel shame, to believe that they have a lacking piece of character, and that mental hardship is just simply disgraceful – something that they should just “get over”.
This all leads to the scary social statistics of today. Those facts being that the mentally ill are more likely to encounter law enforcement than medical intervention during a psychological crisis. As well as the mentally ill having the highest rate of homelessness, and that there are currently more mentally ill people in jails and prisons than in hospitals.
The stigma can lead to abuse, rejection and isolation, as well as exclusion from health care or just simply support. Furthermore, it can manifest in to self-stigma, which is when a person with mental illness turns against themselves!
I personally have dealt with anxiety for my entire life. I won’t get too far in to the details here, because I am working on a post that will share the full story. But simply put, I have memories from childhood – of anxiety. It’s at most times, never been easy to deal with.
It’s been a treacherous journey, but there’s no way that I could continue to progress, grow, or even just show-up to my responsibilities, if it wasn’t for TALKING ABOUT IT! Sharing my struggles, receiving help when needed — whether it be encouragement from friends, love/support from family, or even professional guidance. The most freeing fact that I’ve gained from it all has been, that I am not meant to be perfect. However, I fully understand that I am very fortunate to have always been blessed with the help/support that I have needed, and it deeply saddens me to know that this is not the case for so many – so many that have even more debilitating mental ailments compared to me! :(
Regardless, it’s still not an easy feat for me with anxiety that can sometimes be a rollercoaster. It can have no effect on me for periods of time, but then in other instances/seasons, make life way more difficult than need be. The most recent difficulty being not too long ago while my husband was sent out of the country for work. I remember that wrapped around my thoughts and emotions was an ugly and tattered ribbon of SHAME. I felt shame for not being the “perfect” military wife. You know, the one who is also the star of her children’s PTA, head honcho of the military wives “Family Readiness Group” (I’m not even a part of that group!); the same “perfect” wife who also without-a-grimace dutifully waves her active duty husband off at the airport or military airfield and doesn’t resist to zero or sparse communication from wherever they’re going to this time. I felt shame for simply just not feeling okay emotionally or for not “being” “stronger”.
And that, is what sparked this article. This is not only my public pledge to the mission of The Commit Campaign, (the resource-abundant photo-based movement breaking the stigma associated with mental health and mental illness), but it’s also my fight against the shame that has caused me a great deal of pain throughout life.
So, without further ado…
- I commit to ending the stigma associated with mental health, mental illness and suicide.
- I commit to take responsibility for the words I speak and know that they have an impact on people around me.
- I commit to stop using the phrase ‘committed suicide’ and replace it with ‘died by suicide.’
- I commit to educating others on how to properly communicate on these topics in politically correct manners.
- I commit to being an ally for those that live with mental illness. I commit to stand up and educate others who believe that living with a mental illness is a choice.
- I commit to my own healing journey of balancing my body-soul-spirit connection and being open to sharing it, with the goal of helping others along the path.
WANT TO COMMIT?/
Together we can end the stigma of mental health as well as eliminate the phrase
‘committed suicide’ from society’s common conversation, replacing it with ‘died by suicide’.
WANT TO PLEDGE?/
- Write the word COMMIT on your hand.
- Post a picture of it on social media.
- Tag @commitcampaign and use the hashtag #CommitCampaign, along with your pledge!
If you wish to even further help to create a society where we can speak freely about mental health and suicide prevention, visit The Commit Campaign to donate or connect in additional ways.
A special thank you goes out to my college best friend, Kelsey Oney – the brave, beautiful and inspiring badass mama, wife, and teacher behind this love-driven campaign. She is the co-founder and co-director of The Commit Campaign as well as volunteer and field advocate with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Every year since 2012, Kelsey has traveled to Washington DC to advocate for mental health and suicide prevention legislation. She has also worked with survivors of suicide loss in her home state of Arizona putting on multiple events since 2012 promoting hope and healing. She is someone very near and dear to my heart, and I am so very proud of her, this work and its’ impact.
Thank you for reading.
So Much Love to You All,
If you are in crisis please call The National Suicide Prevention
line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
or text 'HOME' to 741741 for free crisis help anywhere in the US anytime.