It's ok to say, "I'm not ok."

Next week is Mental Health Awareness week.

I know clothes are a lot more fun and light-hearted to talk about, but I hope you don’t mind if we divert for a moment and share some thoughts on this important issue. 

This topic is important to me because some of the people that are closest to me, and who I love the most, are affected by mental illness. And because I have had to seek help at times. One in five adults will be affected by mental illness in any given year and we are STILL skirting around the issue, avoiding the subject, and contributing to the stigma.

We should not feel so ashamed or embarrassed to the point that we don't talk about it, or get help when we need it. If a friend had cancer, we would talk with them, console them, support them, and remind them they are worthy and doing the best they can for their circumstances. We would think of ways to help them, while being sensitive to what they are going through. I hope we can all do better at viewing mental illness the same way.

I wanted to share some resources directly from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) that have helped me, and the people I love. If you need help or someone to talk to please reach out to me (I really mean that.) 

How to help someone affected by Mental Illness....

  • Talk to them in a space that is comfortable, where you won’t likely be interrupted and where there are likely minimal distractions.

  • Be respectful, compassionate and empathetic to their feelings by engaging in reflective listening, such as “I hear that you are having a bad day today.”

  • Instead of directing the conversation at them with ‘you’ statements, use ‘I’ statements instead.

  • Be a good listener.

  • Avoid prying.

  • Give them the opportunity to talk and open up but don’t press.

  • Reduce any defensiveness by sharing your feelings and looking for common ground.

  • Show respect and understanding for how they describe and interpret their symptoms.

  • Genuinely express your concern.

  • Give them hope for recovery.

Avoid Saying:

  • “Just pray about it.”

  • “You just need to change your attitude.”

  • “Everyone feels that way sometimes.”

  • “You have the same illness as my (whoever).”

How to help yourself…. 

As with other serious illnesses, mental illness is not your fault or that of the people around you. So many people don't seek treatment or remain unaware that their symptoms could be connected to a mental health condition. 

Every year people overcome the challenges of mental illness to do the things they enjoy. By developing and following a treatment plan, you can dramatically reduce many of your symptoms. People with mental health conditions can and do pursue higher education, succeed in their careers, make friends and have relationships. Mental illness can slow us down, but we don't need to let it stop us!

Everyone’s situation is different, please go to this page for more information and help for your specific needs

Erica Brown