1 in 5. That's how many Americans experience a diagnosable mental illness each year. 1 in 25 live with a serious mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
For most of us, statistics like this are simply stored as a data point. They bounce off our brains with little impact. So pause with me for a moment. Let your mind trace over the faces and names of the people you know, and do a little mental math. How many people in your family? How many in your church? How many in your workplace, your school, your playgroup, your sports team?
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I'm thinking this morning about the precious people I know who struggle with mental illness. The ones who are afraid or ashamed or don't have access to seek treatment. The ones who choose life and health each day by taking a few small pills or talking to a trusted counselor. The ones who have been burned by stigma or ignorance or cold comforters. The ones who have shared their stories - and the many who have not.
I'm thinking about my own struggles with depression. Of how I wrestled to come to terms with it, of the words I wish I could speak to my younger self. Of how it's cracked open my heart to care for others.
Perhaps mental illness has intimately touched your life. I want you to know you are not alone. Keep "choosing life," holding onto hope, and continue to bravely seek out trusted friends to support you. If I can be of any help, you can contact me here.
Perhaps this conversation is new to you. Perhaps you aren't sure what you think of mental illness. I'm glad you're here. I'd encourage you to take a moment today to learn a bit more (see the links below) and to listen carefully and compassionately to other people's stories.
Mental Health Month Resources
This month is a good time to pause and learn more about mental illness, find support as a caregiver, share your story, or perhaps to seek help for the first time. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the best one-stop resource I know of. I've included links below to get you started.
I would also strongly recommend the mental health resources on Kay Warren's website. She has become a powerful Christian mental health advocate in the last several years, after losing her son to suicide. You will find a wealth of information and resources here.
Don't know much about mental illness? Learn about warning signs, mental health conditions, treatment, and more.
Are you a family member or caregiver? Learn about how to care for your loved one and yourself or get connected to a support group.
Need help for yourself or a family member? Try NAMI's HelpLine (Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm), see your doctor, or seek out a mental health professional in your area.
Are you having suicidal thoughts, desires to harm yourself, or feel like you're at the end of your rope? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) now for 24/7, confidential support. If you are a friend or loved one of someone in crisis, you can also call the lifeline for help, or learn more on their website.