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The Importance of Mental Health and Its De-Stigmatization

Mary-Lauren O’Crowley, MA, NCC

Roughly one in five Americans is living with a mental illness. Despite its pervasiveness, however, ⅔ of these Americans will not receive help. Whether this stems from reluctance due to widespread stigmatization or the inaccessibility of affordable care, the underlying premise remains the same: mental health care is incredibly important to the overall well-being of our society.

1) The Importance of mental health 

According to the World Health Organization, 16% of global disease is attributable to mental health conditions, with roughly 50% of mental health disorders presenting before adolescence. People living with mental illness are also more susceptible to chronic diseases, making prevention, intervention, and treatment all the more paramount. Given the omnipresence of mental health disorders, it is all the more important to foster understanding and compassion. 

2) Supporting and encouraging loved ones with mental health disorders 

“Don’t be sad!,” “God never gives us more than we can handle,” “It is going to be okay,” “When one door closes another door opens,” “You have so much going for you,” and the list goes on. I am confident that most if not all of us have heard one of these broad generalizations from a family member or friend and have likely felt a bit invalidated. For those who want to offer their support but struggle to find the words, it can also feel daunting. A good jumping off point is simply to set aside time to be with them, whether over the phone, on facetime, or in person. Create a space where they feel comfortable sharing as little or as much as they need. You are supporting them just by being there for them. When they choose to share, avoid disputing their feelings, calling into question their personal experiences, or diagnosing them. Reflecting their feelings rather than offering solutions or opinions can be much more validating. If you feel comfortable enough and it seems as though your loved one would be open to the idea, you might even consider offering to help in finding resources or support. See #4 below for more information!

3) Self-care as a means of mental health care

One of the primary efforts behind the counseling field is to encourage mental health care as part of overall wellness. Both the mind and the body are essential to function at an optimal level. When you neglect one, the other will likely suffer. Whether you have been diagnosed with a mental illness or are simply riding the rollercoaster of emotions as a result of the pandemic, establishing a self-care routine is a relatively simple way to, well, care for yourself. Whether you like to read, journal, take walks, listen to music, cook, meditate, or lay in bed with a good Netflix show, setting aside time every day to unwind and recoup can make a huge difference. Try compiling a self-care list and pick one item from the list to incorporate once a day or even just a few times a week depending on your schedule and see how your mood and energy levels improve! 

4) Resources and information      

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, finding support can sometimes feel intimidating. Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) are great online resources that provide mental health education, treatment options, and most importantly, encouragement. You can also reach out to the intake specialists at Symmetry Counseling to pair you with a licensed professional today!

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