Mental Health Month

Harman Abiwardani via

May is gone and we are well into June. And while Mental Health Month is behind us, we can’t let the focus on mental illness fade for even a moment.

Walks and symposiums, along with the attention paid to mental illness by local newspapers and national media alike, tell us that it’s more important than ever not to return to silence. I firmly believe the issues of mental illness are just about to hit critical mass, which in marketing lingo means the topic becomes a part of everyone’s conversation. It can’t come soon enough.

With a new healthcare plan in the balance, it is easier than ever to introduce mental health into a conversation. For instance, statistics tell us that IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is one of the most common afflictions, if not the most common complaint in health news at the moment. And the connection between the gut and the brain is gaining more and more credence through research that shows treatment for the gut can lift a person’s mood. I’ve even heard the term “two brains” — one in the stomach and one in the head — which may be communicating with one another.

My local newspaper, The Tennessean, had an article this morning that talked about the increase in the number of suicides in our state. There were 1,065 reported suicides in 2015, a record high and the most recent data Tennessee has on record.

We know that number is conservative for a couple of reasons.

First, our reporting system is outdated due to a lack of funding.

Secondly, medical examiners have been known to use the term “accidental” on death certificates instead of “suicide” to save the family embarrassment. This is just one way the stigma is reinforced by the medical community. Wake up, doctors! This is the human condition!

We can always talk about the opioid addiction crisis that is affecting everyone. If we talk about it, more people may understand that self-medicating and addictions are often due to untreated mental illness, giving both issues a place in conversation.

While these topics may not be cheerful or appropriate “cocktail conversation,” each of us must introduce mental health issues to our discussions with others because our silence is killing us!