According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness.” (NIMH, 2021) Behind this statistic, there are stories of men and women overcoming often insurmountable odds. Yet, the stigma associated with mental health conditions can discourage some from seeking treatment. If I could speak four words to anyone struggling today, it would be these: you are not alone.
Nearly four years ago, I experienced an acute psychiatric illness. Here are the three most impactful lessons that I learned from seeking and receiving mental health care.
Asking for help does not make you weak. It makes you human.
In one article by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, we observe that “the average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years.” (NAMI, 2021). Research suggests that this gap in treatment-seeking is due mainly to the increasing stigma surrounding mental health conditions. (Henderson et al., 2013). Essentially, societal pressures make it difficult for individuals struggling to come forward, raise their hands, and stand in line to receive the assistance they need.
In life, we are all going to need assistance with something at one point or another. We are all going to struggle. So, why not let another individual lend a hand?
Take this situation, for example. You break a bone. It is excruciatingly painful. So, you visit a clinic, get a cast, and are on the mend in no time. In the same way that there are physicians available to treat physical wounds, practitioners are willing and able to treat mental health concerns.
Desiring assistance is not selfish; it is strong.
In the four years since my own experience, I have noticed that I have personally encountered very few people who openly discuss mental health. I cannot help but wonder what the world may look like if society, as a whole, encouraged rather than discouraged people to ask for help with mental health concerns. Perhaps, there would be fewer personal crises, fewer psychiatric hospitalizations, and fewer individuals who do not feel as if their needs are worthy of receiving the help they seek. Wanting and asking for assistance is a vital step toward health and healing. Do not be afraid to take one brave first step by seeking out the help of another.
Most professionals genuinely desire to see you thrive.
Mental health professionals receive training to handle the situations that their patients present to them. They can serve as compassionate guides as you, and I walk through difficult circumstances and occurrences. These professionals desire to see their patients meet their goals, pursue their potential, and walk through life with courage. These professionals have resources, knowledge, and expertise tailored to meet patients right where they are.
If mental health care is something that you are needing, I encourage you to seek it. Asking for help does not equate to weakness. You are strong, brave, and capable of great things. Go forth and ask for help when you need to. Others are willing and waiting to surround you with support and encouragement. From personal experience, I can tell you that it is worth it.