You might already know this, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to talk about it. The month of May was designated in the United States as Mental Health Awareness Month to put it in the spotlight, to help people understand more about mental health disorders.
I have several family members who suffer from various mental illnesses, so awareness in my household is an everyday thing. But because I see the devastating effects of what mental illness can do to someone and their enjoyment of life, I want to do all I can to make others aware.
Growing up, I wasn’t as exposed to folks who suffered, aside from a couple of relatives I rarely saw, so I didn’t understand the devastating effects of various mental illnesses. Even with treatment, 26% of Americans suffer on a regular basis, so awareness is so important. You probably already know many folks suffering and you might not realize it.
I bring awareness through the stories I tell.
While those stories often focus on finding love, I sometimes touch on mental health themes. Those of you who have read Bullet and Rock Bottom already know that–both deal with substance abuse, but, more importantly, Ethan, one of the main characters, indulges in drugs as a form of self-medication to deal with depression and other issues. In addition, a book I published a few years ago (under the title To Save Him) I will be republishing as Love and Darkness in August, and that book deals with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mental disorders are often dismissed because we can’t necessarily “see” the effects. You can’t look at someone and know that they’re suffering from a mental health disorder. And that’s why Mental Health Awareness Month exists–to remind us that we don’t always know the road someone else has traveled nor the burden they are carrying.
So this message is also one to myself–the people we meet, even if it’s just a person we pass on the sidewalk or someone in line behind us at the supermarket, we don’t know their story. We don’t know what their day or their life has been like. Sometimes, an extra ounce of patience or a kind smile (hopefully, we’ll be better able to see those smiles again once we can take the masks off in public!) will help someone through their day.
If you want more information, please check these sources out:
The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers free support and education about mental health and illness.
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) also offers a host of resources on this page.