It’s time for us to prioritize our physical and psychological well-being. Together we can address the stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorders and learn how to take better care of ourselves and each other.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults with anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms rose from 36% to 42% between August 2020 and February 2021. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that one in five adults in the U.S. experienced a mental illness, while one in 20 experienced or dealt with a serious mental illness during 2020. Even as more individuals experience mental health and substance use disorder challenges, the vast majority don’t seek help because of the stigma.
When we treat mental health and substance use disorders as choices that can be controlled rather than as medical conditions that can be managed and treated, we isolate those suffering and create an atmosphere of blame and shame.
The ambient feeling of guilt around mental health issues can cause those suffering to avoid seeking professional help or even seeking comfort and understanding from their peers and loved ones. Shame or guilt around depression or any other mental health condition is as outdated as thinking you are weak or flawed for needing to wear glasses.
Unlike other physical illnesses, mental illnesses start in the brain. The brain is the least understood organ in our bodies, but just like any other organ, our brain experiences changes, healing, and injury based on life experiences. Mental illnesses can impact the rest of your body. Poor brain health can cause headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, and lead to more serious physical health issues. A healthy mind is an inherent part of a healthy body. We must move past the existing stigma and see physical and mental health equally.