6.04.2015

Speak Up for Silence

speakupforsilence

Mental health is a serious health concern that is incredibly stigmatized and misunderstood. Did you know that in 2011 1 in 5 American adults experienced a mental health issue, 1 in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression, and 1 in 20 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. Isn't it shocking to see these numbers?

Not to mention these are only the REPORTED cases. What about those people that are scared to share their struggles with mental illness? Those that fear the stigmatization that comes with a diagnosis? Even bloggers, who share their lives on the internet, often avoid discussing their mental health struggles on the internet for fear of judgment, criticism, and so on.

THAT'S WHERE SPEAK UP FOR SILENCE COMES IN. 

But before we (Cassie from Sage and Christine from The So-Called Homemaker) introduce what Speak Up for Silence is all about, we want to take some time to share some of our wisdom with you all.

First, we have to understand what mental illness is. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), "a mental illness is a condition that impacts a person's thinking, feeling or mood and may affect his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis."

Cassie: An Empirical Perspective

Aren't the statistics above shocking? You might not have realized that this many people in the U.S. alone experience mental health problems. You might also have some additional misconceptions- most of us do. Below are some common myths about mental health.

MYTH 1: Mental health problems are caused by the person suffering from them.
Just like you would never blame someone for their cancer diagnosis, you shouldn't blame someone for their mental health problems or diagnosis. Blaming someone for their diagnosis and holding them accountable for their own thoughts, feelings, moods, and behaviors are very different.

MYTH 2: Seeking psychotherapy means you have "serious" problems.
Deciding to work with a therapist is healthy, normal, positive, and proactive. It takes a strong person to seek help when they are struggling. In fact, people without mental health problems often seek support for help in coping with stressful times, learning new skills, and even understanding themselves better. I have also heard people say that therapists "tell you what to do." However, I think it would be more accurate to say therapists empower you to help yourself .

MYTH 3: "Mental illness" is a term reserved for those with serious illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
I don't think I realized how common this misconception was until recently. The term "mental illness" refers to a range of mental health conditions. Any disorder that impacts your mood, thinking, and behavior would be included under this term. Therefore, something that is seemingly less severe such as low grade depression or anxiety might not warrant a diagnosis but it is still considered a mental illness/mental health problem.

MYTH 4: Personality weaknesses or character flaws cause mental health problems. People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they would only try hard enough.
Actually, mental health problems are more related to biological factors, life experiences, and family history of mental health problems. We are products of our biology and our environment- two things that can be almost entirely out of our control. To blame someone for factors they cannot control is not helpful.

MYTH 5: People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.
It would be flawed to assume people with mental health problems are any more violent than the general population. Most individuals with mental health problems are not violent and only 3-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. Actually, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime when compared to the general population. MentalHealth.gov says: "You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don't even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities."

Christine: A Personal Perspective

Anxiety. Even the word is stressful. People hear that you have anxiety issues and they automatically think they have to treat you with kids' gloves. They think you can't handle anything, that you're weak, that you're lesser.

It's not just anxiety either. Think of the words depression, OCD, mental illness. You're picturing a nut in a therapist's office, aren't you?

But these disorders, this mental illness, it is not something that affects only a small part of humankind. Since admitting to my own anxiety, I've discovered that there are many more people in my circles alone that suffer from these kinds of issues. Why was I so afraid to share my story? It's because of the misconceptions.

It's because people might look at me differently. They might treat me differently. And isn't there something inherently wrong with the fact that my anxiety causes my anxiety?

Mental illness affects so many people. It's not something that we can see the scars from, typically. Most times people with mental illness are the people we consider the most "normal" in our lives, the people who have their shit together and whom we look up to. But we don't realize what they are going through until they open up to us.

THAT'S WHAT THIS PROGRAM IS ABOUT.

We want Speak Up for Silence to be a place where people can open up about their own mental illness or the experiences they've had with other people's mental illness.

We want you to share your stories, even anonymously, and start the discussion. These topics should not be hidden in the dark any more. We should be talking about them so that these misconceptions and judgements can be ended - finally - and we can stop feeling like outcasts for being "different". 

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing these stories every Thursday. We encourage you to read them and start a discussion in your own life. If you want to join in on the discussion on social media, we strongly encourage you to do so. Share whatever is on your heart. #speakupforsilence

Please note: within these posts, some writers may feel compelled to share advice for what has helped them. This advice, unless explicitly stated, is not from a medical professional and should not be considered medical advice. If you are struggling with mental illness and need help, you can call the National Alliance on Mental Health hotline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).

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30 comments :

  1. I think what you girls are doing is incredibly powerful. I myself am undereducated on mental-illnesses and would love to learn more. As i was reading the myths above I realized how wrong I was and have been. I never want to hurt or offend anyone especially due to an illness so I think what you're doing to raise awareness is brilliant,

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  2. This is so important. Everyone needs to understand that mental illness isn't a bad thing. Just because you see a therapist or are on meds doesn't mean you aren't doing the right thing for you. When I was seeing a therapist I got a lot of weird looks from people I told. I was very open about it to my friends and family, because it was a major decision in my life. But the stigma is still there. Thank you for this! I do think it's extremely important. Will you guys have a linkup on Thursdays that everyone can share their stories?

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  3. Thanks lady. You're really brave for admitted that you have misconceptions of your own. You're definitely not alone in that! I hope this series is helpful for you in learning more!

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  4. Yes! Seeing a therapist is applaudable and not something to be ashamed of at all. We won't be having a linkup but we are encouraging people to submit posts for us to share every Thursday! :)

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  5. Cass!!! Thank you for sharing this! I feel like this awful stigma has been placed on mental health and if you are suffering from depression of any kind, then you're just SOL. And be sure not to bring it up because God forbid we talk about a problem that can't be "seen." I have fought tirelessly with people on this very subject so thank you for raising your voice and awareness on this topic. Thank you thank you!

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing about this and having the boldness to do so. Mental illness is hard to watch those we love suffer through, and I know what that's like first hand. I wish more people who struggled spoke up!

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  7. YES. I struggle with this in the church often because I feel like it is just misunderstood!!

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  8. I agree with you. If you're willing we would love for you to share your story. There is a choice to do so anonymously if you choose as well! https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1TnyrBrGyNkhFHdq9kdx-mL9xin9312ZTr_tUba13gAo/viewform?usp=send_form

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  9. This is wonderful. Such an important part of our lives that is often ignored or frowned upon. Many people don't understand how common it truly is and that it sucks to have to hide something like this. Such an empowering thing you ladies are doing!

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  10. Such intresting information - I had no idea, so thank you for sharing! So grateful Jesus is bigger than any issue we face!

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  11. This is a wonderful idea! Mental illness is so misunderstood and for this reason I have been scared to speak up about my struggles with depression until recently! I hope more people speak up and it may just help to end the stigma there is regarding mental health.

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  12. Yes, I definitely agree with you! We hope you will consider submitting a post to be a part of the series.

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  13. Yes! I also think knowing when to ask for help is also important. I face a lot of stigma as a clinician because many people in the church don't believe in therapy which baffles me. And just adds to the stigma!

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  14. We hope that you will consider joining our series by submitting a post!

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  15. I love that you are doing this! I pray people feel comfortable enough to share because this could be an incredible way to support, encourage, pray for and help one another. It's not my struggle, but I'm excited to see where this goes!

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  16. I pray the same, Amy! Thanks for your support!

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  17. This is so amazing Cassie. Mental illness isn't something I personally struggle with but close friends and family have and it's hard when so many people don't quite understand it. It's good to bring awareness like this!

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  18. I love this idea. I cannot wait to participate. I feel like this is the perfect platform to finally, and boldly, share my struggle with mental health story. Thank you for brining this topic up. We need more people to talk about this.

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  19. I'm so happy to hear that you will be participating, Annie! Thanks for your support.

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  20. I look forward to reading all of the posts. Glad that you and Christine are doing this!

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  21. I can't wait to see where this series goes!

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  22. So excited for this. Mental illness is so important and needs to be taken seriously. I hope one day the world as a whole will understand this.

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  23. I would love to sign up for the series? What do I have to do to get involved?

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  24. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1TnyrBrGyNkhFHdq9kdx-mL9xin9312ZTr_tUba13gAo/viewform

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  25. Thank you, just submitted my post!

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I would love to hear from you! I try to respond to all comments.