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11 Things You Need to Know About Mental Illness

Treating those around you, at work, home, and everywhere else, with care and compassion may be more impactful that you’ll ever know. Mental health professionals are concerned that the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, including heightened loneliness and/or stress levels, may trigger increased suicides by sufferers of mental illness and lead to new cases of circumstantial depression […]

Treating those around you, at work, home, and everywhere else, with care and compassion may be more impactful that you’ll ever know.

  1. Mental health professionals are concerned that the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, including heightened loneliness and/or stress levels, may trigger increased suicides by sufferers of mental illness and lead to new cases of circumstantial depression or anxiety.
  2. Mental illness IS physical illness. Literally. People who suffer from mental illness have lesions and other damage to their brain that we’re just beginning to understand. Many neurologists call major depression “cancer of the brain” (as opposed to “brain cancer”) and are working to develop imaging-based tests to diagnose mental illness more quickly and effectively.
  3. You can’t fix your own or someone else’s mental illness single-handedly. Offering to be part of someone’s support team, listening to their struggles, and helping however you can frequently IS ENOUGH. If you’re suffering, create a support team for yourself. If you’re part of someone’s support team and feel overwhelmed or afraid that the sufferer may not be safe, you can always call a crisis line yourself or with the sufferer for professional guidance! It never hurts to ask “How can I help?” Just like someone who’s broken their arm multiple times, if the sufferer’s condition is chronic, they may know exactly what they need.
  4. If you’re part of someone else’s support team, establish your role based on what you’re capable of doing early on and get the contact information for the other people on their support team so you can coordinate activities and rely on each other. The professionals, i.e. psychiatrists and therapists, are trained to do the heavy lifting. But your contribution, no matter how small, does make a difference.
  5. If you ‘just don’t get mental illness,’ that’s great! You’re probably mentally healthy! Acknowledging that you can’t empathize or sympathize with mental illness is a crucial step in supporting someone who’s struggling. You’ll minimize potential assumptions, be significantly less likely to cause harm, and avoid marginalizing their illness through well-intentioned but ignorant statements like “Just do _________. It perks me up anytime I feel down.”
  6. The professional help you or the sufferer needs is always available, including: Crisis Text Line: Text Hello to 741741 (US & UK) or 686868 (Canada) and National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1–800–273–8255
  7. Because mental illness carries so much stigma, it takes courage for someone to tell you they’re suffering. It’s also a sign that they trust you. Treat that trust with the care it deserves or you risk losing that trust and your opportunity to help the sufferer.
  8. Approximately 1 in 5 people have an undiagnosed mental illness. ~1 in 25 have suicidal ideation (fantasize about ending their anguish). Suicide is the fastest rising cause of death (after COVID-19). Deaths by suicide are under-reported: the 1,000,000 reported deaths by suicide per year excludes categories including single driver vehicle accidents in which the driver made no attempt to save him/herself, drug overdoses, and instances when parents wish to keep their child’s suicide private. The threat is real and growing.
  9. You could save a life by learning about risk factors (i.e. excluding COVID-19, for individuals between the ages of 15 and 34 as well as women between 30–35 and men between 55–65, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death following only accidental death). Learn more at: Aspf.org or suicidepreventionlifeline.org
  10. If someone is suffering from suicidal ideation, you won’t ‘plant the seed’ by asking if s/he is considering suicide. You’ll open the door for them to talk about it. Together, you can call a professional or crisis hotline. Ask permission first. It’s paramount that you retain the sufferer’s trust or you may cause additional harm by turning yourself into one more person with whom they can’t talk about their struggles.
  11. Masking is common among high functioning suffers of mental illness. These people may not only exhibit NO symptoms, but they may appear to be happy, healthy, and successful. Don’t make assumptions about someone else’s mental state, intentions, or goals. You’re not a psychic or empath.

Thank you for making the time to better understand mental illness and how you can help save lives! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to The Erika Legacy Foundation at +1–780–665- 514 or e-mail [email protected].

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