I heard this piece of a conversation between two friends as I jogged by them in the park the other day, “I was trying to act normal…” Then I passed them but not without being prompted to consider what that really means. So many of us appear “normal” or even beautiful, talented and rich such as the late Kate Spade. Yet many of us struggle with fitting in, appearing normal or masking our struggles.
I facilitate the mental health, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Intensive Out Patient Group, (DBT IOP) and the majority of clients that attend all struggle with what constitutes normal, and what to say to their employers, friends, co-workers and loved ones about their particular struggle.
Mental health problems do not discriminate on the basis of demographics, age, race, sex, how you look or how much money you make. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention “Mental health and physical health are equally important components of overall health. In 2015 there were an estimated 43.4 million adults- about 1 in 25 Americans age 18 or older – with a mental illness within the previous year.” Suicide, which can be associated with mental illness is the 10th leading cause of death in the USA, and the 2nd leading cause of death among people age 15-34. So many of us struggle with finding a “normal”, yet it is often not talked about as a cause of embarrassment for the person struggling with the illness. I witness many of my clients worry about people finding out they are on a leave from work due to mental health issues yet being out of work for a physical health issue is not viewed with so much worry about people “finding out”. Every time a mental health issue come into the media I hope this will take away some of the stigma. Yet I think it still remains. We all can help fight the stigma around mental health issues and be supportive of others who suffer with a mental health issue.
People who are considering help for a suspected mental health problem should be encouraged to seek help and follow their treatment plan. Often I hear of discouraging words from significant others, such as:
• I don’t believe in mental health problems
• Just suck it up
• We all feel depressed sometimes
• Maybe if you would just think different
• You don’t really need medication
So how do we help support others with mental health issues, stress or people struggling to feel “normal”?
• Talk and listen, provide encouragement
• Help maintain a routine, encourage socialization
• Be reassuring, as you would with any illness, the person suffering with a mental health issue did not choose this, treat them as you would if they had any illness.
• Help them connect and keep appointments with mental health professionals
• Encourage heathy living choices, such as regular sleep, well balanced meals and avoidance of drugs or alcohol
If your friend or loved one continues to have symptoms, or they get worse do not judge them just continue to provide support, making sure they do see their mental health professionals. Also remember we all struggle with fitting in, feeling depressed, anxious or feeling “normal” at times, be pa-tient as these feelings can happen to anyone as well as more serious mental health problems.
CATHRYN E. KNEZEVICH, M.ED., LPCC DBT