Mental Health Month May is Mental Health Month, but who cares?

The easy answer is lots of people. So why has mental illness become this country’s greatest health problem?

Why Should We Care about Mental Illness?

Most of us know that there are plenty of counselors and medication, and some may have heard of the newest technologies like TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation).  And there are organizations like NAMI, The National Alliance On Mental Illness, a nationwide network of volunteers that educates and supports people and families who struggle with mental illness.

But what about the people who have never been touched by mental illness, either in their professional lives or among family members and friends? Why should they care?

The best reason I can think of is because mental illness directly affects everyone as it grows in silence. And we don’t realize it.

Why Don’t We See Mental Illness?

In fact, one in five Americans has a diagnosable mental or emotional struggle each year without preference for physical, social or financial health. That’s 20 percent of the country!

So why don’t more of us realize how many people in our world are suffering and affecting our own company’s profitability or our closest relationships at home? (According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, $210 billion is lost in US business each year due to mental illness.)

I believe it is because we can’t see mental illness until it is too late.

If someone is struggling with cancer, they may change in appearance when they lose their hair or unexpectedly lose a lot of weight,  all of which is noticeable, eliciting our compassion and empathy.

But once someone starts to struggle with their feelings and thoughts or finds their personal hygiene more of an effort than they are able to make, we don’t see it because we don’t talk about it. It is far easier to believe the thoughts or feelings will pass, or wonder, “What would someone think of me if I confide my reality?”

The Problem

Here is the problem: Mental illness doesn’t disappear because we want it to.  Without treatment, it takes more and more control of thoughts and feelings until life is no longer manageable.

What would happen if each of us chose to see and took the time to offer our help or time to listen to those in our lives who seem troubled? Might there be fewer sick people losing their way?

I’m confident there would be fewer homeless people whom we do see. Their troubles all began in silence.

Learn more about Mental Health Month here.