May is Mental Health Awareness month and this year’s theme is “Together for Mental Health.” The message of being together is an important message to convey regarding mental health. The impact of one person struggling with their mental health goes well beyond personal struggles. Yet despite the impact mental health has on the individual and beyond, the stigma that is attached to seeking help prevents many from seeking help.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years. The stigma is so great that people often wait until their worst possible moment before reaching out.
Together, we as a community must decide to advocate for each other to seek help when needed. Would we tell those close to us to wait 11 years to treat an infection, breathing difficulties, cancer or any other physical condition? Would we wait 11 years to fix our car, furnace, or computer? The answer would be “no” as the issues it would create with everyday life are unacceptable. Yet we wait to get help with mental illness despite the costs.
Together as a community we must accept that one in six children experience a mental health condition each year. Together we must accept that one in five adults experience mental illness each year. Together we must accept the impact that the pandemic and other local stressors have had on mental health in the community.
Only when we accept these facts, together as a community can we lessen the impact of mental illness. The “Ripple Effect” of mental illness as NAMI describes it is far reaching from person, family, friends, community and beyond.
As a community, let’s make it OK for each other to talk about team mental health issues. Join in conversations to reduce the stigma. Recently, our Riverwood Behavioral Health Services joined with the Minnesota Wild in the first “Hockey Talks Mental Health Awareness” to reduce the stigma around seeking help with mental illness. Those who were in attendance were able to hear the impact on mental health on hockey players and a local radio personality and their families. Together, you can help make a difference by having your own “hockey talk” with your family, friends, school, and business associates to reduce the stigma and impact of mental illness.
Source: Information for this article is drawn from “Mental Health by the Numbers”, National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Author: Tim Markgraf is a licensed social worker who offers behavioral health therapy at Riverwood Healthcare Center’s Behavioral Health clinic in Aitkin.