Mental Health: What is it?
Mental illness is a health condition that causes changes in a person’s thinking, mood, and behavior. Mental Illness is very common. Mental heath and mental illness can be pictured as two points on a continuum with a range of conditions in between. When these conditions are more serious, they are referred to as mental illnesses and include depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and others which may require treatment and support. They are also widely misunderstood. People with mental illnesses are often stigmatized by others who think it’s an uncommon condition. The truth is, mental illness can happen to anybody regardless of age, culture, race, gender, ethnicity, economic status, or location.
Arm yourself with the facts, and then use your knowledge to educate others and reach out to those around you with mental illness. Understanding and support are powerful, and they can make a real difference in the life of a person who needs them.
- Among 18-25 year olds, where serious mental health conditions are high, yet this age group shows the lowest rate of help-seeking behaviors.
- Those with mental health conditions in this age group can lessen future disability if social acceptance is broadened and they receive the right support.
- People with mental illness need to be treated with respect, compassion, and empathy, just as anyone with any other serious but treatable condition.
One of the most important factors in recovery is the understanding and acceptance of friends. Friends can make a difference by offering reassurance, companionship, and emotional strength.
Getting Better all the time! One of the most important things to remember about mental illness is this: people can and do recover. If you have a friend with mental illness, or if you have a mental illness yourself, remember that recovery is possible.
The stigma associated with mental illness is a big barrier to recovery, if we want to be a truly healthy society, we need to break down the stigma and treat mental illness like any other healthcare condition. It starts with you!
How to Help:
How do you treat someone with diabetes, cancer, or a broken arm? If you’re like most people, you’d express sympathy and concern, offer your support and reassurance, and feel confident that your friend’s condition could improve with treatment. Now, if that same friend told you he/she had a mental illness, what would you do?
Too many people respond negatively when confronted with a friend’s mental illness and this only fuels the stigma surrounding the diagnosis. The reality is, mental illness is no different from physical illness. Conditions like depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders affect a person’s health. Support from friends and family are very important to a person’s recovery. You can make a difference just by understanding and helping your friend throughout the course of his or her illness and beyond.
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Imagine that you’ve been diagnosed with a serious but treatable physical condition. You’re scared and confused, so you tell a close friend. What if that friend laughed at you, made you feel silly, or told you to “snap out of it”? People with mental illness face these reactions every day.
We all know better than to hurt people-especially when they are already hurting. So put aside any preconceived notions you might have about mental illness and embrace a more helpful way of relating to people and remember to treat people with mental illness just as you would treat those with any other serious but treatable condition:
- Respect, compassion, and empathy
- Don’t change the subject
- Ask questions, listen to ideas and be responsive
- Ask what you can do to help
- Educate people on the facts
Help a friend:
If your friend tells you he or she has a mental illness, here are some helpful tips!
Now what would you do?
To find treatment and support programs, contact your local health and welfare office, call the Idaho CareLine by dialing 211 or 1.800.926.2588, look in the phone book for mental health services, or contact the Idaho Youth Council at 1.800.905.3436. Your health care provider, teacher, clergy or friends may also know of resources in your community.
Modified from a SAMHSA publication