Why do we treat mental illness any different than a physical one?
May is Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM), a time to focus on fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness, educating the public about mental illness and support, and advocating for equal care. Attn: released a powerful video for MHAM to show how a lot of people who suffer from mental illness can be treated.
The video, released Friday, has already been viewed 22 million times. It takes a creative approach to show just how strange it would be to approach a person’s physical injury the same way a lot of people treat someone with a mental illness.
The video starts out with a man running straight into a tree, smashing his face. His friend’s response? “Please don’t complain, you’ll ruin the vibe.” Another scene shows the man in a wheelchair with a broken leg, and is told, “It’s like you’re not even trying to walk.” When he has a killer migraine and takes medicine, he gets “You take meds for that?”
Anyone who has suffered from a mental illness, from anxiety and depression to PTSD, has likely heard some variation of these responses. Everything from “Your attitude sucks,” to “Other people have it way worse than you,” “You’re fine, suck it up,” to “You just need to choose to be happy.” These responses only serve to minimize what that person is going through.
Each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. According to Newsweek, about “42.5 million American adults (or 18.2 percent of the total adult population in the United States) suffers from some mental illness, enduring conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.”
“The data, compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), also indicate that approximately 9.3 million adults, or about 4 percent of those Americans ages 18 and up, experience ‘serious mental illness’ – that is, their condition impedes day-to-day activities, such as going to work,” they further report.
Just because we can’t see mental illness the way we see a physical one doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It doesn’t mean that person is in any less pain that someone suffering from a physical malady. And it certainly doesn’t mean they need any less support.
According to the University of Washington, of the people who die by taking their own lives, “more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder. People who die by suicide are frequently experiencing undiagnosed, undertreated, or untreated depression.” We need to stop with the stigma of mental illness and support those that need it.
If help is needed or you or someone you know is suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room. You can also call the NAMI helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI or Text “NAMI” to 741741 to find help during a crisis.