Growing up in the Caribbean, I have seen a lot of people who have lost the mental capacity to fully function in life. I’ve also seen others who are barely surviving. In extreme cases, where they have become displaced because of the incapacity to live and function normally. It begs the question, what was the cause of their calamity? Could they have been helped? Can they still be helped?
These were the questions I pondered and still do. I am sure many others have asked those same questions as well. Looking back, I can’t recall there ever being a campaign to bring awareness to the epidemic. What I can recall is the callous approach and the blind eye we turned and accepted it as the new normal.
The obvious signs of mental struggle stare us in the face daily in our schools, homes and communities. We are still unable to recognize the signs of Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar, Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, just to name a few. Visit http://www.nimh.nih.gov for a complete list and for more information. There are different variations of mental illness and they can range from mild to severe. In many cases some have a snowball effect.
Maybe it is not that we don’t recognize the signs, but often it is not easy to discuss. It is not easy to say to a friend or family member, “hey, I think you may need some help”. Even if we can break pass the barrier of suggesting help, we may also face the person who is in total denial. Getting them to accept that “hey, I need help” is an even a bigger task. In some cases, getting the message across requires a person of influence such as a mentor, mother figure, father figure or spiritual leader.
Note: The church’s view on mental health may vary, some are wise and connected to tell the difference between spiritual and physical struggle. While others are trained to only address the spiritual side. This may be another topic for a different day.
Nevertheless, let’s carry on!
Here in the US, in 2017, there were an estimated 46.6 MILLION adults aged 18 or older in the United States with AMI- (Any Mental illness which also includes emotional disorders). This number represented 18.9% of all U.S. adults and an estimated 49.5% of adolescents had any mental disorder, yet it was reported that less than 50% of those diagnosed received treatment.
We are swift to treat the physical pain we feel especially if the pain is unbearable. We however tend to ignore the pain of a dysfunctional life. We ignore the pain associated with the lack of progression, constantly misunderstood, labelled and ostracized, which is just as great as the pain of being physically wounded.
Yes, it is easier to treat the bruise you can physically see and touch but imagine being totally unaware of the source of your pain and unable to explain why is it that you just can’t seem to fit in. Let’s keep in mind that the pain is not limited to the persons who are suffering but also their love ones.
It hurts just as bad to watch someone near and dear to our hearts suffer unknowingly or in denial. Families are left to decide if they ride the roller-coaster or hop off at the next stop and deciding to stay on or get off is extremely hard.
Make no mistake about it, mental health issues can be very subtle, but it is incumbent on us to pay close attention to those subtle signs as it relates to our own mental health as well as the people around us. Be the shoulder that someone needs today or that friend who will take them by the hand. Let’s face it, this might not be your struggle today, but this science project of a body is not guaranteed to last a lifetime, and neither is our mental capacity. Be aware, be conscious, speak out, break your silence, seek help and most importantly remember “Wholeness for humans, depends on the ability to own their own shadow”- Carl Jung.