A Well World: Developing Empathy for True Awareness

The facts and figures about mental illness are relatively easy to find, especially during May, Mental Health Awareness Month. This increased knowledge plays an important role in fighting stigma, and I’m grateful that in recent years, our society has been talking more openly about the signs and symptoms, as well as the reality that one in five people experience mental illness each year. However, true awareness of mental illness involves more than just knowing the facts. It’s also vital to understand the impact of these conditions.

Most people don’t really grasp the impact of a mental health condition until a loved one is diagnosed. Often, it’s a child as many mental illnesses first emerge in adolescence and early adulthood. Sometimes it’s a parent or friend. And sometimes it’s we ourselves who face a mental health struggle. But regardless, it’s difficult to understand how mental illnesses impact individuals and families until we’re personally touched by them.

Those who are unaware are blessed that they have not be personally impacted by mental illness; but in order to offer support from a place of understanding, it’s important for all of us to build empathy. And this is accomplished most fully through getting to know people who live with mental health challenges.

I’m grateful that, in addition to serving as a stigma-free haven for our members, the Well Community is also a place where people from our wider community gain understanding about the ways serious mental illnesses alter every facet of life. As our volunteers serve, they’re blessed with growing empathy for our members, who face numerous daily hurdles brought about by their conditions. Those who give their time at the Well develop true awareness that overflows in their care for our members. And for that I’m grateful, not only during Mental Health Awareness Month but all year long.


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