Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It is Mental Health Awareness week, and as such, I feel the need to say something. There are a few celebrities speaking out about mental illness, trying to make a dent in the shield of shame that surrounds the topic.  Even the news channels will devote a few moments this week, discussing mental health.

People talk about sex and illness, death and life...but skim the surface of depression or anxiety, suicide and debilitating phobias. The topic makes people uncomfortable. If we don't talk about it, then it will go away. If we choose not to see it, then it doesn't exist. 

I have seen too many of my son's friends succumb to suicide. Too many young lives not fulfilled. I have lived with depression and anxiety for over 40 years, and struggled with how it affected my family and friends. I have lost friends, due to a lack of understanding--why I can't leave the house (agoraphobia); why I don't go to shopping malls (panic attacks); why I avoid parties (fear of large crowds).   

If not for the love and support of my family, I don't know what I would have done (I don't go there...). Many people aren't so lucky. They suffer in silence.

My hope is that my words (or your words...or somebody's) will reach even one person, to help that person not feel so alone. To begin to break the stigma of mental illness, there must be awareness and communication. If we can banish the fear and shame that society has used to cloak mental illness, we can begin to heal.

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