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Mental illness is no joke. It affects an estimated 42.5 million American adults. People who suffer with it may have depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsion disorder, and other mental illnesses. Most people are not prepared on how to deal with mental illness and those who suffer do not typically ask for help. About 1 in 5 people who are suffering with a given mental illness claim they are discriminated against. And although society has matured when it comes to mental illness, there is still a stigma attached to it. This can prevent them from seeking treatment and support. Many feel disgraced socially and have experienced being stereotyped as being crazy. Being shunned by society just fuels the cycle for the sufferer, who then does not seek out treatment. The hope for recovery can be delayed, or even dashed.

The media plays a part as well. Usually mental illness is associated with violence, or with criminal acts. This adds to the shame. There is a process in order to get to the point to even ask for help, but you need to fight these fears and the labels. It is imperative you do not wait to receive help. Having a mental illness is just as bad as having any other illness, like diabetes, or high blood pressure. You would not wait to seek help with these physical ailments, so do not risk your mental health any further no matter what is holding you prisoner. We will look at ways for you to reach out for support, or help someone who really needs it.

One of the toughest things to admit is that we need support. This the hardest part for many people because it means being open, vulnerable, and inviting someone into a part of our lives that is painful. This can be terribly grueling for someone who is independent. However, if we look at the negative effects of not having support it can lead to further isolation and withdrawal. Mental illness is legitimate and asking for support is not a sign of weakness. Like anything in life, when there is a problem we need to accept and use a strategy to correct it. Take a step to unload the burden that you feel, and acknowledge you can’t do this alone. It is worth it, even if it is one step at a time.

There are between 30 percent and 80 percent of people who do not seek help for their mental health concerns, the World Health Organization found. This is a dangerous realization that people are suffering and not receive any treatment for their illness. With a suicide committed every 40 seconds, we need to take any mental illness seriously. Start communicating with a friend or family member that you are struggling. Set up a time to talk with someone over lunch, or over coffee. If this does not work, call people you feel comfortable with to start the conversation.

Additionally, feeling isolated can lead to bigger problems. Find a buddy who can keep you accountable to exercise, eat right, and to take medications. Maybe go for walk with them and listen to their perspective on things. Ask them to help you find professional help and or community groups where there can be other sources to pull from. You can’t just rely on one person as it will be too much for them to handle. Once they help you take the first steps, it is up to you to move forward. You have a mission to build a mental health support team.

Finding the right professional help takes time. If depression is your struggle you want to find someone who specializes in this. Ask your primary care doctor for referrals for a therapist, and keep an open mind. Just because someone has the most education does not make them a good choice. Sometimes people with ivy-league educations are not good. There is no guarantee as credentials are not everything. Their personality or the way they do a session might not be right for you. The best bet is to make a list of 3 to 5 people you would like to see, and interview them. There is a reason that there are hotlines for people to call. They are great for when you do not know where to start. You can talk to trained crisis worker who will not share information. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has local centers nationwide to support people under duress, or who are suicidal. They can also help you find a therapist and a support group. They might share coping strategies, and ways to notice signs if you are in a decline.

If you are determined that you want to keep things a secret, then call a hotline for help. Finding peer groups and support groups are necessary. But there are other kinds of groups to get involved in. Look into art therapy, music therapy, and equestrian therapy. Art therapy is great to tap into creativity and expression. Music is another form of therapy that helps people who have difficulty expressing emotions and words. In equine therapy, a mental health professional supervises the grooming, riding, and helps build confidence through interaction with the horse. Equine therapy can help manage depression, trauma, grief, low self-esteem and addictions. All for these therapies are good for adults and children.

The support for mental illness is out there, all we need to do is ask and seek it out. The adage that two heads are better than one rings true. We can’t do everything on our own, and when it comes to dealing with any kind of sickness we need an objective opinion. Talk to a friend, a pastor, a therapist, or reach out to a trained counselor through a hotline. Also look for non-traditional therapies like art, music, or animal therapy. Make the decision today to talk with someone about your struggles.

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