Top 11 Things You Need to Know about Mental Illness
Treating those around you with care and compassion may be more impactful that you’ll ever know.
- Mental health professionals are concerned that the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, including heightened loneliness and/or stress levels, may trigger increased suicides by sufferers of mental illness and lead to new cases of circumstantial depression or anxiety.
- It IS physical illness. Literally. People who suffer from mental illness have lesions and other damage to their brain that we’re just beginning to understand. Neurologists call major depression “cancer of the brain” and hope to develop similar tests to the ones used for cancer to diagnose mental illness more quickly and effectively.
- You can’t fix your own or someone else’s mental illness single-handedly. However, offering to be part of someone’s support team, listening to their struggles, and helping where you can frequently IS ENOUGH. If you’re suffering, create a support team for yourself. If you’re part of someone’s support team and feel overwhelmed or afraid that the sufferer may not be safe, you can always call a crisis line yourself or with the sufferer for professional guidance! It never hurts to ask “How can I help?” Just like someone who’s broken their arm multiple times, if they have a chronic condition, they may know exactly what they need.
- If you’re part of someone else’s support team, establish your role based on what you’re capable of doing early on and get the contact information for the other people on their team so you can both coordinate activities and rely on each other. The professionals, i.e. psychiatrists and therapists, are trained to do the heavy lifting. But your contribution, no matter how small, does make a difference.
- The professional help you or the sufferer needs is always available, including:
- Crisis Text Line: Text Hello to 741741 (US & UK) or 686868 (Canada)
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- If you ‘just don’t get mental illness,’ that’s great! You’re probably mentally healthy! Acknowledging that you can’t empathize or sympathize with mental illness is a crucial step in supporting someone who’s struggling. You’ll minimize potential assumptions, be significantly less likely to cause harm, and avoid marginalizing their illness through well-intentioned but ignorant statements like “Just do _________. It perks me up anytime I feel down.”
- Because mental illness carries so much stigma, it takes courage for someone to tell you they’re suffering. It’s also a sign that they trust you. Treat that trust with the care it deserves or you risk losing it and the opportunity to help the sufferer.
- Approximately 1 in 5 people have an undiagnosed mental illness. ~1 in 25 have suicidal ideation (fantasize about ending their pain). Suicide is the fastest rising cause of death (after COVID-19). Deaths by suicide are under-reported: the 1,000,000 reported deaths by suicide per year excludes categories including single driver vehicle accidents (which have no other logical cause), overdoses, and instances when parents wish to keep their child’s suicide private. The threat is real and growing.
- You could save a life by learning about risk factors (i.e. for individuals between the ages of 15 and 34 as well as women between 30-35 and men between 55-65, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death; the leading cause of death is accidents) and potential indicators (i.e. ISPATHWARM) Learn more at:
- If someone is suffering from suicidal ideation, you won’t “plant the seed” by asking about it. You’ll open the door for them to talk about it. Together, you can call a professional or crisis hotline. Ask permission first. It’s paramount that you retain their trust or you may cause harm by becoming one more person with whom they can’t talk about their struggles.
- Masking is common among high functioning suffers of mental illness. These people may not only exhibit 0 symptoms, but they may appear to be happy, healthy, and successful. Don’t make assumptions about someone else’s mental state, intentions, or goals. You’re not psychic.