Even during these stressful times, mental illness is a hard subject for many to discuss openly. The Make It OK campaign works to reduce the stigma of mental illness and increase understanding about it.
Make It OK encourages us to start conversations based on facts.
Fact 1: Mental illness is common. One out of every five adults will experience a mental illness during life. Persons of all ages, races and income levels are diagnosed.
Fact 2: Most mental illnesses can be treated effectively with medication, therapy, diet, exercise and support. Mental illness, like any disease, is a medical condition — not a character flaw. It can neither be fixed through “will power” nor can the ill person just “snap out of it.”
Fact 3: Stigma can keep people from seeking help and can derail progress toward healing. Stigma — a psychological effect of ignorance, prejudice and cruelty — is a form of social shaming, such as the use of negative slang when describing mental illness, categorizing all mentally ill persons as the same, avoiding the mentally ill and discriminating against them.
Make It OK offers these tips for supporting persons with mental illness:
• Stop the silence. It’s okay to talk about it.
• Show kindness.
• Keep in contact with ill persons.
• Don’t ignore the disease.
• Offer to help.
As an example of these tips, think about if someone you know has cancer. You ask how they’re doing today and whether you can give them a ride to an appointment or babysit their children while they go to the clinic. Why don’t we do that with persons suffering from mental illness?
It’s been said that mental illness is the “no casserole” disease. When someone has surgery, friends bring a casserole. Not so with mental illness. Ironically, persons suffering from mental illness may have trouble coping with daily tasks and appreciate help.
There are resources to help you learn more about mental illness and help you follow through with your good intentions, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health and the Make It OK website.
The Dallas County Health Navigation program can also assist you in connecting to mental health treatment, support groups and health insurance. Call them at 515-993-3750.
Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Public Health Department.