This past July, I launched this blog in an effort to explore mental health issues and its effects on the black community. Despite the specificity of its focus, I would like to believe that my blog is all encompassing with many people being able to relate to it, even if they do not know they can. In this country, 1 out of 4 people have lived with a mental illness at one point in their lives. That means that even if you are not one, you know somebody who does.
We have come far since the days of forces institutionalization and lobotomies, but mental illness still is heavily stigmatized, causing many to shield their suffering and neglect their well-being. Even more troubling, some people with a mental illness are not adequately diagnosed. Your older brother may be more than just a slacker who solemnly lurks around the house doing nothing. He could very well be depressed and in desperate need of direction. The disheveled homeless guy shouting obscenities to himself on the subway platform could have lived an ordinary, fulfilling life if he was afforded decent mental health care.
Evidence of mental illness is all around us and it affects us all. The number of mental health organizations is growing and they are all working hard to improve the lives of people. Unfortunately, a lot of their resources go to combating ignorance, neglect and stereotypes, all of which prevent people from accessing the care they need to survive.
With October being National Mental Health Awareness Month, we can all take the opportunity to reach out someone who may need your support. In American culture, people are generally discreet about illness. Although people may not be open about their diabetes or emphysema, they still are likely to go to the doctor, keep up with their medication and take control of their health. People with mental illness shy away from treatment are less likely to take care of themselves. So break the cycle and end the silence. You have the chance to save a life, possibly even your own.