Each year, thousands of people will face a crisis. Some may lose friends and loved ones. Some may lose family members or marriages. Some may lose their health. Some may even lose their lives. Sadly, many of these people will be blamed partly or entirely for this health crisis, simply because it’s a mental health crisis. Others will be too ashamed or fearful to seek help. Even though an estimated one in four American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year and are a leading cause of disability (nih.org), mental disorders including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, eating disorders, and other disorders are surrounded by shame and stigma, clouded in ignorance.
Those suffering from mental disorders are often fighting an uphill battle to get not only an appropriate diagnosis, but also an effective medication regimen. It’s unfortunate, then, that they must also often fight for acceptance from their workplace, friends, and even often their family. Mental disorders are frequently shrouded in mystery, largely because their diagnosis is not always as cut and dried as physical disorders. A simple blood test or x-ray may not diagnose a mental disorder, but the pain and suffering they can wreak is just as real.
Mental disorders may feel isolating. Often, well-meaning friends may tell someone suffering from depression to simply “snap out of it” or offer similarly unhelpful advice. While it’s true that someone suffering from a minor case of the blues can find relief in exercise, better sleep and dietary habits, and even more sunshine, major depression is a medical problem that may require professional assistance. Telling someone to “snap out of it” is singularly unhelpful and may even be harmful.
If you believe that someone you love is suffering from an undiagnosed mental disorder, the most important thing you can do is be supportive. Encourage the person to seek medical assistance. A full physical workup can eliminate neurogical possibilities. It can also open a dialogue between your loved one and the physician.
Your loved one does not need anything other than your full, unconditional love and support at this time. Do not offer judgment, do not criticize or condemn (in word or deed), do not snoop for signs of self-medication unless it is occurring in your home, and most importantly educate yourself on the diagnosis. If your loved one refuses to seek help, there is little you can legally do to force them to get help. If you believe that they are in imminent danger, you can request help from a local emergency room or dial 911 or the local police department.
If you yourself believe that you may be suffering from a mental disorder, know there is no shame. You are not alone. Please understand that 26.2% of Americans also have mental disorders. There is relief available for you, whether that is in the form of talk therapy, drug therapy, or rehabilitation. There may not be a simple treatment, and there may be a need for lifelong therapy, but there IS relief available. Please do not suffer in silence any longer. Please, get help now. You’re worth it.