The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Yet, when we think of health, we tend to prioritize physical well-being at the expense of mental health.
Every single person, at some point in their life, will struggle with their mental health.
Around 15 percent of diseases are mental illnesses. The challenge of mental disorders is especially profound in the U.S., where an estimated one in five adults—about 44 million people—experience a mental illness each year.
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, affecting an estimated 300 million people around the world. Depression is so widespread that the WHO has projected that, by 2030, it will be the leading cause of the global disease burden.
Unfortunately, because of the stigma that continues to surround therapy and mental health, people may be discouraged from reaching out to professionals due to all the misconceptions. This is so harmful – reaching out for support is the best thing you can do for yourself!
Society has come a long way when it comes to normalizing mental health talk and education… but there are still leaps and bounds to be made.
Get this – 38% of Americans have said they are “definitely” or “probably” unwilling to have a person with a mental illness move in next door; 58% said this about having someone who is mentally ill work closely with them, and 68% said this about having someone with a mental disorder married into their family!!
Just imagine the amount of chaos there would be if we were to say these same things about people with physical illnesses!! I mean, seriously.. When someone shares that they’ve been diagnosed with a physical illness, like multiple sclerosis, no one says, “You should just think positive, it’ll help you to feel better,” or “Quit being dramatic. We all have problems in life.” But sadly, those are exactly the kinds of things that are spoken to individuals with mental illnesses.
According to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, most people still believe that individuals with mental illness are “dangerous” and “unpredictable”.
The media fuels those beliefs. That’s in part because many stories about crimes – especially the most horrific ones – usually reference an individual’s history of mental illness. While it’s true that many criminals do have mental illnesses, It’s important to note that most individuals with a mental illness don’t commit crimes. In fact, people with mental disorders are more likely to be victims of crimes rather than the perpetrators.
What I hope people understand..
- There is a very strong connection between your body and your mind.
- Your mental health can absolutely affect your physical health – this is why many individuals who suffer from mental illness tend to have lower immunity. This can lead them to easily fall physically ill.
- Depression and anxiety alone can cause all kinds of physical health issues in the long term. Just these two mental illnesses can lead to a loss of libido, night sweats, restlessness, cramping, and a whole arena of long term physical complaints.
- Mental health can also affect motivation, energy level, and other daily functioning tasks.
- Mental health includes psychological, social, and emotional well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and how we act in our daily lives. Your ability to handle emotions, stress, how you socialize with others and making decisions are all greatly determined by your psychological state.
- We should be promoting brain health (aka mental health) just as much as heart, liver and kidney health. Our brain is the foundation of who we are as humans. It’s not only the reason that you can walk and talk, but it’s also the part of you that gives you your identity, your personality, and everything that makes you, you.
So don’t be afraid to take care of yourself and put your health – both physical and mental – at the top of your priorities list.
It’s okay to take a mental health day. It’s okay to seek help for an illness that others may not be able to see. It’s okay to need people sometimes. It’s okay to reach out and ask others for support.
What’s not okay is calling someone crazy or trivializing/dismissing their problems just because you cannot physically see them. Don’t invalidate what someone is going through just because you may not understand it.
Everyone’s struggles matter. Mental health is just as valid as physical health. No one should ever be made to feel ashamed for making their mental health a priority.
To those fighting an invisible illness – I hope you always remember how valuable you are. You belong here just as much as anyone else. You are needed even if you cannot see it in this moment.
Your mental health matters. You matter. Keep going, friend. You belong here.