By Sarah Nestell, LLMSW, Supports Coordinator, Adult Services, Newaygo County Mental Health
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
We asked the staff of NCMH if they might be willing to contribute some writings in an effort to help spread understanding of the role MH issues play in all of our lives. The last piece addressed self care for parents. https://www.nearnorthnow.com/living-well/parenting-self-care-forgotten-needs
Today Ms. Nestell speaks to the ongoing obstacle known as stigma.
“You’d be fine without your medication.”
“It’s all in your head.”
“It could be worse.”
“You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
“You are going crazy.”
“Stop looking for attention.”
Every one of these statements has been said to me or someone I know directly. I choose to believe that the intentions of the individuals making these statements are not malicious, but rather they are uninformed. There is an unfortunate and misleading stigma around mental health that I believe has prevented us as a community from understanding because we don’t talk about it. We don’t normalize it, but we should, and I hope we do.
Approximately one in five adults live with a mental illness. Whether or not they meet full criteria for a clinical diagnosis, you probably know and love someone experiencing mental health symptoms (some common symptoms include anxiety, depression, panic, etc.) You may notice if they have poor concentration, are often fatigued, their appetite has changed, they withdraw socially, etc.
As humans, it is natural to desire connection and closeness to others. In fact, it’s critical for our emotional wellbeing. Having a mental illness may impact relationships and the ability to form and maintain connections because of how the illness can impair social functioning, and further because we as a community may not be prepared to respond. Many studies show that positive social support enhances resilience to stress, protects against functional consequences of trauma, and reduces medical comorbidities and mortality.
What can we do to better understand and support our loved ones with mental illness? Let’s change the conversation. Rather than leading with judgment, let’s seek to understand. Here are a few practical ways to be supportive:
Please remember that a mental illness is not a flaw or character defect, it is an illness like any other illness, and it may be the reality your loved one is living. Your support and understanding will be for both their benefit and yours.
If you are seeing mental health treatment or looking for educational resources please call Newaygo County Mental Health at 231-689-7330. We look forward to caring for our community.