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Mental Illness Awareness Week - "What I Wish I Had Known"

With 1 in 5 Americans suffering from mental illness every year, while living in a society that often negatively stigmatizes mental health, it is no surprise that there's an entire week dedicated bringing awareness. Considering that half of all chronic mental illnesses begin by the age of 14, people need to be educated about mental illness and the struggles that they entail.

This year, Mental Illness Awareness Week is being highlighted a bit differently - the National Alliance on Mental Illness has themed the week "What I wish I had known", and broken each day down into a sub-category with regard to treatment/information those suffering from mental illnesses wish they'd known sooner in their lives. Here at Send HEPi, we have decided to utilize their list and provide information, examples, and resources for each day's category, and house them all here in a single post.

The whole point is to shine light on true stories and highlight problematic circumstances that may be affecting others in the mental health community!

Monday: Stigma

To say that mental illness is without stigma would be one hell of a lie. It's so engrained in the way that society works around us, that often times people are negative and don't even realize it. My grandmother studied psychology back in the 60's and 70's, and she's told me that it was mostly utilized for criminal understanding, or the institutionalized - not your neighbor feeling anxiety in her day-to-day life. When Cognitive Behavioral Therapy started up in the 1960's (this is a very common therapy practice still utilized today), the stigma started that something was wrong with you if you needed therapy - your brain wasn't right, you were a "crazy person", etc.

I remember growing up in the 90's and 2000's, and the idea of mental illness was like a big joke - celebrities having mental breakdowns and being turned into punchlines, and even in my own home both my parents suffered from mental illness, and when I would start to display symptoms and not understand what was happening, would cry and tell my mom I "felt crazy", she would panic and tell me that I wasn't crazy.

It always felt like a gross secret I had to keep, and not like something that was relatively common, and that I could definitely have found help for.

Even now, I am 28 and have a loose abnormal depressive diagnosis - I experience mania, and depressive episodes, and riddling anxiety. I have had psychologists tell me I am bi-polar. I have told this to my friends, causal and in conversation (because I grew up in a toxic mentally unstable household, and I don't think people should live in silence), and I always receive the same answer: "Don't say that."