Understanding Mental Illness; How You Can Help

Feeling reflective today. Thinking of those who are battling their mental illness alone. I know there are many people who want to help those who are struggling. How do we do this? We can educate ourselves on the symptoms of this illness and be able to identify and refute the many misnomers of mental health. According to Mental Health and Invisible Illness Resources, fatigue and lethargy may be a symptom of depression-not laziness. Irritability and anger may be a sign of depression-not an inability to get along with others. When a person is constantly preoccupied, perhaps they are consumed by intrusive thoughts and simply cannot think outside of themselves. The National Alliance on Mental Illness lists the following as other symptoms of mental illness:

· Feeling excessively sad or low

· Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning

· Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria

· Avoiding friends and social activities

· Difficulties understanding or relating to other people

· Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective reality)

· Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)

· Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs

· Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)

· Thinking about suicide

· Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress

· An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

So if we can learn how mental illness presents itself, we also learn to talk and think about mental illness in a stigma-free way. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is promoting the StigmaFree Campaign. Go to CureStigma.org and take the quiz to see if you have a stigma against mental illness and to take the pledge to be stigma free.

If you think you know someone who is depressed, try to talk to them. You might not get past “hello” the first time you talk with them but maybe it will open the door to further conversation. Another option is to refer that person to BJC Behavioral Health’s 24 Crisis Hotline available to anyone in need. The number to call is 1-800-811-4760. Remember, together we can make a difference.

Mary Pyatt | LIFE Center Disability Advocate

(800) 596-7273 maryp@lifecilmo.org