“It’s OK to feel unstable. It’s OK to disassociate. It’s OK to hide from the world. It’s OK to need help. It’s OK not to be OK. Your mental illness is not a personal failure.”

Did you know that 1 in 4 people will have some kind of mental illness in their lifetime? Do you know how common 1 in 4 is? Just as common as an iPhone customer. More common than grey cars. More common than people with tattoos & left-handed people. 60 Million Americans are affected each year. 1 in 4 people will have some kind of mental illness in their lifetime, and many don’t get the help they need. Mental health is just as important as our physical health, yet we seem to put our mental health on the back burner.

Mental illnesses are biological conditions that can be treated, just like cancer and diabetes. They cannot be overcome through “will power” and are not related to a person’s character or intelligence. Between 70-90% of people’s symptoms are reduced and they feel better when following individualized treatment plans.

A public survey showed most people thought mental illnesses were related to stress, lack of willpower and weakness. THIS IS A STIGMA. It is time to end the stigma of mental health and make it OK. Mental illness is more common than diabetes (and we know this is on the rise!), yet we still struggle with talking about it compared to a physical illness. I encourage us to overcome the fear of talking about mental health. You would be surprised by the journey others have overcome that could support you on your journey. I, myself have overcome an eating disorder and depression. I say overcome, but it definitely takes work every day. It is something I cannot do on my own, it takes time, patience, and being honest with yourself and others.

It is NEVER too early to start a conversation with someone who may be struggling with a mental illness. Sometimes we resort to silence because it can be hard to find the right words to say. Simply ask, “How can I help?”. Then let them know, “Thanks for sharing. I’m here for you when you need me”. Talking about mental illness may be uncomfortable for you and your support person at first, however, the more we talk about it the easier it gets! Just be nice, supportive and listen.

Find out more information about ending the stigma of mental illness at MakeItOK.org. There is a lot of great information on how to start the conversation.

Submitted by: Megan Swenson, Certified Wellness Coach, St. Croix Regional Medical Center

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