May, after a parade of so many other awareness days, weeks, months, highlights those that struggle with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, schizophrenia and a host of other illnesses that can impact a person’s daily life and relationships. It recognizes the staggering statistics and attempts to put faces to these disorders, humanizing facts, figures and brain scans to promote the idea that mental illness is not a joke or excuse. It is a time filled with green ribbons, “supportive” social media posts and a halfhearted attempt at recognizing and understanding the effect of mental illness on individuals across the world.
And while you may come across posts of support for those that suffer from some of the most common of these illnesses — including various types anxiety and depression — these disorders are often romanticized by these posts, failing to show consumers the reality of these illnesses.
Romanticization, while wellmeaning, is incredibly counterproductive and does little to educate readers about the signs and symptoms of many illnesses. Rather than give statistics and facts about the issues, these posts promote the idea that a lover can save you from your depression, “your scars are beautiful” and that everyone gets anxious sometimes.
Depression is not a pretty girl with streaked mascara, and selfharm has never been and will never be pretty. Living with someone with bipolar disorder can be like living with a chaotic light switch, taking care of a paranoid schizophrenic can be one of the most exhausting things in the world. Anxiety can be crippling, OCD is not just keeping a tidy house. And everything cannot be “stop the bullshit” simplification and learn something about these illnesses that you pretend to care about for the next few weeks.
Here is the fact: mental illness is not pretty. It affects good people, bad people, young and old. It is the most indiscriminate of health problems, regardless of your race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status. And while some are at a higher risk due to family history, there are no magic indicators that will tell you whether or not a person will develop a disorder during their lifetime.
In extreme cases, it can rob you of your home, family and friends if untreated. It makes you a target for abuse and sexual assault. And, if severe enough, can kill — a harsh reality for anyone who has lost someone to suicide.
There is no key to curing everyone either. This may sound dismal, but it is the truth. For some, medication works. Others not so much. Mental health is a casebycase issue that cannot be summed up by your blanket tweets, posts and reblogs. It cannot, and should not be trivialized in such a way to only be given a month on the mental radar of “healthy” individuals
So what can you do? In the face of mental illness, one of the best things is create a support system — be it friends, family or medical professionals. Be the safety net for those around you who are struggling. Learn about what people are going through, accept a person’s symptoms the same you would a chronic illness and actually be there for them rather than posting memes and hitting like on a sad status. Don’t chalk everything up to a bad day. Don’t brush off suicidal thoughts or tendencies. And don’t stop caring on June 1.
Below are links to educational resources:
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/autismspectrumdisorders/en/ http://www2.nami.org/factsheets/anxietydisorders_factsheet.pdf http://www2.nami.org/factsheets/schizophrenia_factsheet.pdf http://www2.nami.org/factsheets/OCD_factsheet.pdf