October 10th marks World Mental Health Day, a day the World Health Organization states is for the promotion of “open discussion of mental disorders, and investments in prevention, promotion, and treatment services.” This year’s theme is “Depression: A Global Crisis.”
Since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder almost fifteen years ago and lost my younger brother to suicide, mental health is an important issue in my life. Poor mental health is a problem that many people grapple with, yet are too afraid to discuss. Unfortunately there is still a stigma involved with mental health issues. President Bill Clinton really said it best, “Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.”
It’s such a shame that we are still losing friends and family members to suicide due to undiagnosed or untreated mental illness. It seems that nobody is immune to the blues. We lose nearly as many seemingly successful athletes and well-educated professionals to suicide as we do young teens. It is never okay to suffer silently.
If there is one thing I wish I could impart, it would be that there is help to be had. If you struggle with depression, there is help at every level, from an anonymous hotline to a licensed therapist. The most important factor in your ability to cope with the symptoms and recover is your ability to get help. Depression isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s an all-too-common ailment that is highly treatable. There are excellent non-drug therapies as well as medications that can help set you back on track. It is not a sign of weakness to use these resources.
On this World Mental Health Day it is my hope to open the lines of communication and let people know that they are not alone. I’m one of many willing to help, from lending an ear and a hug to recommending resources. Don’t be afraid to ask. You are not alone.