While I am optimistic about what 2014 holds for many of us, I must begin this year on a somber note. A growing epidemic is sweeping the country affecting people regardless of race, gender or age. Mental illness in its many forms from depression, to anxiety, to bi-polar disorder is having a negative impact around the country. Sadly if left untreated or even under-treated mental illness can have tragic consequences. Suicide is now the leading death by injury in the country surpassing car crashes, according to the American Journal of Public Health.
Far too many people go through their days feeling inadequate, hopeless, numb, isolated and lonely, even in the presence of loved ones friends and family. Many of these family members and friends may even be unaware of the inner struggles of their loved ones. For others the problems are well known, but solutions to the problems aren’t knowledgeable to them.
Many who face these challenges are afraid to seek treatment or counseling because they are afraid of the stigma they may face from others. Often they don’t want to admit they have the problem as their pre-conceived notion of the condition may actually be worse than the reality of it. Of course the denial and lack of assistance only reinforces their inability to cope with the problem and perpetuates a negative cycle.
Too often friends and loved ones can also add to the problem even though they are well intentioned. Frequently someone subtly reaching out for help is greeted merely with a passing “keep your chin up” or even a “just pray about it” guidance from parents or loved ones who do not recognize the warning signs of something more serious. While a positive attitude for some or faith for others play a role in combating these conditions, they may not be sufficient on their own.
In the face of such challenges, what can be done to help? Well for those suffering from conditions that are persistent seek help from parents, spouses loved ones and friends. Many houses of worship also have support organizations for such issues. Additionally seek professional treatment where guidance can be given from clinical experts.
For those who may have someone facing these challenges in their life, be patient, be encouraging and listen. Direct them to many of the above resources mentioned when the issues are beyond your ability to fully grasp and comprehend. Above all, do not merely assume that an apparent cry for help isn’t ” a big deal” or that it will pass. It may be the first and last warning you hear. It is important for your friends and loved ones to know you can support them with love and not judgment not just for that day but for as long as it takes. With education and understanding we can help remove some of the dangers from and illness that is claiming far too many lives.