Did you know that Mental Health Awareness month has been observed each year during the month of May since 1949? I don’t ever recall there being a time growing up that mental health was discussed as openly until I became an adult. I’m glad that more people are wanting to get help but there are still so many that feel isolated or ashamed about their mental illness.
If you’ve been with me for a while you know I typically discuss my love for all things related to natural hair, my crazy ass kids and wine. Literally those are the three top things that I feel represent who I am as a person. But for the last year and a half I’ve also focused on a lot of things outside of my blog. That would be dealing with mental illness.
For the last three years I’ve been working as a Crisis Consultant for a suicide hotline. While it is probably one of the most stressful jobs I’ve had, it is also one of the most rewarding! The majority of my jobs since I graduated from college have dealt with mental illness in one way or another but not as intimately as this one.
I’ve been trying to figure out the best way for a while now to address some of the issues that come up when I’m talking with callers. I like to just cut to the chase when I’m talking with people on the phone so I figured that would also translate to how I wanted to discuss this on my blog as well. The only way I figured that would work was if I gave some tips on how to treat people that are dealing with mental illness.
5 Ways to Not Be an Asshole Toward People Dealing With Mental Illness:
1. Don’t judge someone for seeing a therapist or taking medication. One of the biggest steps after admitting you need help is actually receiving that help. For some people, therapy or counseling isn’t enough. Never shame someone for taking medication. Different techniques work for different people and some can have devastating consequences if they just stop taking their medication cold turkey.
2. Don’t dismiss someone’s feelings and tell them to just “get over it” or “it’s just a phase”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this from callers. Depression is real and not a phase. If it were that easy there would be no need for anyone to work in the mental health field.
3. Don’t tell someone to just pray and leave in His hands. It doesn’t help people get the health care they truly need. There are a lot of groups of people that feel that you can pray mental illness away. I really and truly wish it were that easy. I always remind people too that their prayers bring people into their lives that are there to help them and look at it that way.
4. Educate yourself and others. Mental Illness is a real medical condition and come in the form of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder just to name a few. People that have never dealt with depression or other mental health issues have a hard time trying to understand what it’s like. Take the time to talk with your friend or loved one and learn how you can be a support system for them.
5. When someone tells you that they are having suicidal thoughts, don’t dismiss them! Depression and suicidal ideation doesn’t care about race, religion or socioeconomic background. Take them to get help immediately or if they can agree to safety have them call a crisis line. And most importantly, let them know they aren’t alone.
Remember you can make a difference simply by knowing that mental illness is not anyone’s fault. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or are concerned about a family member, friend or loved one, call the suicide hotline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)