May is Mental Health Awareness month. It’s a time when those of us in the mental health field try to bring attention to the challenges faced by others who, not just for a month a year but every day of their lives, are constantly aware of the devastating toll mental illnesses extract from them.
I asked some of our members recently, “What do you want people to be aware of regarding mental health challenges?” As you can imagine, there was a wide range of answers. But here’s the gist of what they told me:
- We may have mental health issues, but we are still people.
- People shouldn’t be scared of us just because we look and act differently from them.
- What I have is an illness. It’s not like I asked to have these troubles.
- I’d have a job if I could.
- Sometimes you hear that somebody with mental illness has done something awful. That doesn’t mean everyone with mental illness does terrible things. People without mental illness commit crimes every day, but not everyone does.
- I wish my family and friends really understood what life is like for me.
- I really appreciate it when people look me in the eye and say hello.
- There is a lot going on in my head. I need people to be patient with me.
- My medication makes me tired so I don’t have the energy to do everything I’d like to.
I was asked a while ago if there was one principle I would recommend to help people relate better with those suffering with mental illnesses. Yes, there is. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” You don’t have to be a Christian or even religious to recognize the truth and value of those words spoken by Jesus. You just have to be a human being who treats others, including those with mental health challenges, with dignity, respect and, yes, love.
I am so thankful for the volunteers and supporters of The Well Community who not only show great love for our members, but also help others overcome their misconceptions about mental illness and model ways to actively care for their neighbors at The Well.