15 Things to Consider When Discussing Mental Illness

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Millions of individuals are living with a mental illness around the world, and yet, these conditions are too frequently considered taboo and misunderstood. Thankfully, patient leaders are stepping up to the challenge to erase the stigma behind mental illness for good!

To recognize Mental Illness Awareness Week, we asked the Patient Leader Network what they wish people knew about life with mental illness. Keep reading to hear what our members said:

1. There’s a Difference Between Mental Health and Mental Illness

“Mental health and mental illness are not the same things. Everyone has mental health, regardless of if they have a mental illness!” – Kate, Chronic Illness Patient Leader

2. It’s Not Caused by Patients, but Patients Can Cope With It

“It is biologic, it is not caused by the person experiencing it although you do have the ability to cope with it and thrive with it.” – Natalie, Anxiety Patient Leader

3. Healing Takes Time and Effort

“That it doesn’t just go away with the power of your mind or medication. It takes work to keep it at bay. Work and therapy.” – Liz, Depression and Medical PTSD Patient Leader

4. Mental Illnesses Are Not Excuses

“There’s a stigma – for DID that it’s a way to avoid responsibility – in fact, it’s the opposite and it’s very painful to be seen that way. I have to be hyper-responsible so that people don’t know.” – Anna, DID Patient Leader

5. Mental Illnesses Aren’t as Rare or Unusual as You Think

“That its [mental illness] more common than you think, and some of the most well adjusted “looking” people have just learned really good coping skills from years of therapy and hard work.” – Minessa, Chronic Illness Patient Leader

6. Mental Illnesses Don’t Discriminate

“The biggest misunderstanding about mental illness is that it can’t happen to you. It can happen to anyone and doesn’t discriminate, just like cancer or diabetes.” – Maya, Mental Illness Patient Leader

7. There’s No Shame in Asking for Help

“There is no shame in obtaining help with mental illness. Obtaining help is essential for one’s own well-being and everyone deserves to receive treatment/help.” – Jenny, Rare Disease Patient Leader

8. Mental Illness Is Not a Sign of Weakness

“I wish people knew that it’s not a matter of weakness or not trying hard enough.” – Ashley, Major Depressive Disorder Patient Leader

9. More Validation and Support for Patients Is Needed

“More and more mental illness needs to be validated. Yes, we need to be proactive in our treatments but it is not a choice and we are more frustrated with the situation than others that criticize.” – Anonymous Patient Leader

10. Just Because It Can’t Be Always Seen, Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Real

“People can’t see it so they don’t necessarily believe you or understand. I wish people that don’t have a mental illness, could be more empathetic and would put themselves in others’ shoes.” – Megan, Chronic Illness Patient Leader

11. There Is Still a Stigma Around Mental Illness, and More Advocacy Is Needed

“Many are discriminated and looked at differently, or misunderstood. Correcting it is explaining more mental illness so many others can gain the knowledge. And there needs to be more advocates so many can hear the message.” – Natalie, Epilepsy Patient Leader

12. More Understanding From Others Is Needed

“Everyone has experienced trauma and that’s what creates and exacerbates mental health issues. We’re all walking around with different mental health issues and illnesses. It’s a part of life so the stigma that exists around mental illness is really just fear of owning our own experiences and healing.” – Danielle, Mental Illness Patient Leader

13. Mental Illness Can Be a Symptom of Other Conditions

“Mental illness can be the first symptom in many neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, dementia, and also can be seen with other medical conditions.” – Maria,Parkinson’s Patient Leader

14. A Mental Illness Doesn’t Mean a Person Is Dangerous

“People often think mentally ill people are dangerous or that it’s not real, but that’s not true, dangerous or not depends on the person, not diagnoses, and all of the struggles are real.” – Crystal, ADHD Patient Leader

15. Mental Illness Can Impact Your Physical Health

“It can really mess with your physical health. Also, physical pain and mental illness can go hand in hand.” – Kyra, Chronic Pain Patient Leader

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We’re so inspired by all the patient leaders who are supporting others living with mental illnesses, and who are making the conversation around mental illness more informed and compassionate. If you have experiences or insights to share relating to mental illness, share them with us on social media. Let’s keep the mental illness advocacy going all year.

Help is Available

If you’re struggling with a mental illness or your mental health, please seek help. Below are free mental health support resources you can contact for support:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En español 1-888-628-9454 or visit the chat line.

Crisis Text Line: Text “HELLO”to to 741741.

Veterans Crisis Chat: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255 or use the Veterans Crisis Chat on the web.

Diaster Distress Line: Call or text 1-800-985-5990.

If you’re concerned about a friend’s social media activity, contact the platforms directly. In the event of an emergency, call 911.

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