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Let’s Talk about Mental Illness

If you don’t have a mental health disorder, you may not think about it very often or might wonder how it’s relevant to you. Sure, you get sad or anxious occasionally, but you don’t have clinical depression or panic disorder. So why might you need to care about mental health?

The reason is because your best friend might have PTSD. Your neighbor with a new baby could be coping with post-partum depression. Your coworker lives with anxiety. There are people all around us living with some sort of mental illness and the most effective way we can all help is to talk about it.

It’s okay to have a mental illness: Many of us do.

In fact, one in four people live with some type, according to the World Health Organization. Most people live with their symptoms for years before seeking treatment, largely due to the stigma associated with mental health. The sooner people reach out for treatment, the greater their chances of recovery.

What’s the stigma?

When we think of mental illness, some of us might picture someone who’s homeless, disheveled, or institutionalized. Unfortunately, these are common stereotypes surrounding mental illness. The reality is that people with mental illness are of all ages, genders, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Stigma can be harmful: it often leads people to be ashamed of their or their family member’s mental illness—delaying them from seeking treatment.

Mental illness is not a character flaw, it’s a medical issue.

Mental illness is a biological condition that can be treated just like diabetes or a thyroid disorder. It is not related to a person’s character or intellect.

Life can get better, but it starts with a discussion.

End the silence. If someone tells you that they’re feeling heavy, feeling dark, or might have a mental illness, they are opening up to you in a big way. It’s not easy for people to reach out and, if they choose to, they confide in you. Try to keep awkward silences at bay and don’t shy away from the subject. Show concern and ask questions. By openly talking about the problem, it becomes easier to ask for help.

Be nice and listen. The fact that you are there for your family member or friend can make a world of difference. As much as you can, try not to find the solution to the problem. Focus on asking open ended questions and listening to what they need to tell you.

Keep in contact. Let your friend or family member know that they can always get a hold of you and you’re always available for them. Check in with them from time to time, whether it’s a call, text, or an offer to meet up. It can be hard to take the first step, so make it easier on your friend by reaching out occasionally and asking how they’re doing.

Offer to help your friend. Everyone is different and has different ideas about what might help them. Ask your friend what you can do to help and be open to their suggestions.

What should I say?

It can be tricky to find the right words when someone opens up to you. Here are a few suggestions that will keep the conversation going in a positive direction.

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What are some resources for people dealing with mental illness?

If you’re in a crisis and need immediate support or intervention, call the

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (801) 273-8255

Trained crisis workers are available to talk to you 24/7 and can provide counseling and mental health referrals.

To schedule an appointment with an Ogden Clinic provider who specializes in mental health, click here.

For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). They also provide a treatment services locator on their website.

Another resource is TalkSpace, an online therapy website (and a Google Play/Apple Store app). TalkSpace employs licensed and experienced therapists who can help with depression, anxiety, marriage counseling, the challenges of being in the LGBT community or a veteran, or more. It’s an affordable service that allows users to send a message to their therapist anytime. Therapists respond 1-2 times per day and video chats can be scheduled as well.

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Content from this post was adapted from MakeItOK.org. “Make IT OK” is a campaign to reduce the stigma of mental illnesses by encouraging open conversations and education about the topic. Visit their website to learn more or take the pledge to stop mental illness stigma.

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