The Importance of Mental Health Awareness

I wanted to write a post about mental health awareness month. But I keep having a hard time finding the words. It’s a topic I particularly care about… I’ve been there, touched a pretty dark bottom, and worked hard to rise back up to where I’m today. A healthy place, a balanced place. What really helped me was accepting the part of the journey I was in and asking for help. Being ashamed and afraid of what we feel and go through doesn’t protect us, it protects the false truth we’ve been told about what is acceptable to feel and how to be.

Blake Murphy

Mental illnesses affect 19% of the adult population, 46% of teenagers and 13% of children each year. People struggling with their mental health may be in your family, live next door, teach your children, work in the next cubicle or sit in the same church pew.

What Exactly is a Mental Illness

Mental illness is a physical illness of the brain that causes disturbances in thinking, behavior, energy or emotion that make it difficult to cope with the ordinary demands of life. Research is starting to uncover the complicated causes of these diseases which can include genetics, brain chemistry, brain structure, experiencing trauma and/or having another medical condition, like heart disease. The two most common mental health conditions are:

Anxiety Disorders – More than 18% of adults each year struggle with some type of anxiety disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder (panic attacks), generalized anxiety disorder and specific phobias.

Mood Disorders – Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar depression, affect nearly 10% of adults each year and are characterized by difficulties in regulating one’s mood. What You Can Do to Help you can do to help:

  • Showing individuals respect and acceptance removes a significant barrier to successfully coping with their illness. Having people see you as an individual and not as your illness can make the biggest difference for someone who is struggling with their mental health.

  • Advocating within our circles of influence helps ensure these individuals have the same rights and opportunities as other members of your church, school, and community.

  • Learning more about mental health allows us to provide helpful support to those affected in our families and communities.

  • Showing individuals respect and acceptance removes a significant barrier to successfully coping with their illness. Having people see you as an individual and not as your illness can make the biggest difference for someone who is struggling with their mental health.

  • Advocating within our circles of influence helps ensure these individuals have the same rights and opportunities as other members of your church, school, and community.

  • Learning more about mental health allows us to provide helpful support to those affected in our families and communities.

Get Professional Help If You Need It

If you need help with self-care and self-love don’t hesitate to reach out!

If you or someone you know is feeling especially bad or suicidal, get help right away. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center or dial 911 for immediate assistance.

Of course, you don’t have to be in crisis to seek help. Why wait until you’re really suffering? Even if you’re not sure that you’d benefit from help, it can’t hurt to explore the possibility.

A mental health professional can help you:

  • come up with plans for solving problems
  • feel stronger in the face of challenges
  • change behaviors that hold you back
  • look at ways of thinking that affect how you feel
  • heal pains from your past
  • figure out your goals

Belief and Support

One of the most powerful things in the world is to be supported and believed in. Any measure of success I’ve achieved has been fueled by people who believed in me and supported my work. I think you can probably think of people who did the same for you.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I’m thinking about how my Mom did those things for me, my siblings, and many other people. She bought me books, encouraged my photography, drove me to countless activities.

What I encourage you to think about this week is two-fold. First, who are the people in your life who have supported, nurtured, and believed in you? This is a great week to reach out and thank them for the role they have played in your life. That expression of gratitude is a powerful thing for both people.

This also acts as a powerful journal prompt. Take some time over the next few days and write down some thoughts on the impact people have had on you through their love, support, and encouragement. Thinking about this offers great insight into why it meant so much and how you can do the same for others. Which leads me to the second challenge of the week.

Second is to consider how you can offer support to people you interact with. There are people in your life that are starving for someone to be a source of encouragement, a sounding board, and a guiding influence in his or her life.

One way to think about this kind of contribution is in the context of the Hero’s Journey. There’s a time in your life where someone acted as a guide for you, supporting and believing in your life and arc. While you’ll go through stages of the journey many times in life, recognize the final stage is Return and Contribution.

Offering support, encouragement, and belief in someone can be done in a wide variety of ways. Being a parent, mentor or coach aren’t the only options for those who want to make an impact. Here are few ways to offer that belief and support to those around you this week

Blake Murphy
  1. Share a note of encouragement via text, direct message, chat, video, or voice message.
  2. Review someone’s work and offer suggestions or edits to improve it. 
  3. Schedule a short call with a co-worker to see how they’re doing. 
  4. Join a friend for a walk and talk about life outside of work or their work/interests outside of raising a family.
  5. Send $5-10 to a creator you respect as a thank you for how her work impacts your life (to be clear this isn’t a veiled request for you to send me anything – but another creator you want to support).

There are so many ways for us to support each other. Sometimes it’s easy to think that nothing is going right, but by connecting directly with another person we’re cutting through the noise and the bad news to bring light to the life of someone else.