Ending the stigma of mental health issues

Many people across the world suffer from some sort of mental health issue. That’s what makes today, World Mental Health Day, that much more important.

It serves as a chance to recognize and help individuals who deal with these issues on a daily basis.

"We need to be paying attention every day to our own struggles, people around us, and the mental health issues that affect us," said WKU Counselor Betsy Pierce.

That’s exactly what World Mental Health Day aims to do – raise awareness for something that affects 1 in 5 American adults at some point in their life, even if they’re still dealing with some form of mental issue currently.

"Just like when we say we are what we eat, we’re also what we think," Pierce said. "Our thought patterns and the behaviors we choose affect everything else we do. So it is just as important as being healthy physically."

Dealing with mental health issues can often be a struggle that people aren’t used to handling. It’s often harder than facing physical setbacks, and there are several reasons for that, but one of the biggest being the self-blame that individuals with these issues unfairly place on themselves. 

"We think we ought to be able to help it or change it or not have it in the first place," said Pierce. "Why can’t I do this, or think this? Why am I think that or feeling that? We blame ourselves for emotions too. The self-blame we would never do with a physical illness."

A second issue is that fact that there isn’t a tangible timetable for recovery from a mental health issue. No medicine that cures all. Bones break and heal over time, but with mental health problems, individuals have to learn how to cope with something that might never fully go away. 

"For most mental illnesses, it’s going to be there to some degree lifelong," Pierce said. "That’s not always true, but that’s often true. With clinical depression or general anxiety disorder, there’s probably going to be some measure of that for all your life whereas you would get over a broken leg."

Having resources like the WKU Counseling Center are vital to helping individuals deal with their problems, especially for college students who already have to deal with so many challenges on a day-to-day basis.

"These are years when young people are finding themselves, looking for that career, developing relationships, but just really developing mentally and emotionally," added Pierce. "If you throw into that mix, which are really valid struggles anyways, some type of mental illness…it just makes everything amplified."

If you know of a friend or loved one dealing with mental health issues, Pierce advises to simply listen to what they say, educate yourself on what it is they’re going through, and simply be there to support them, whether they say they need you there for them or not.