LCHM Fall 2017 - 10

FEATURE

MENTAL ILLNESS
LET'S TALK ABOUT IT
BY MARGARET MURPHY

O

ne in five adults in the United States experiences mental
illness in a given year. And yet the stigma and myths associated with mental illness keep many from acknowledging or
discussing it, often leaving those living with mental illness
feeling alone, unsupported, and reluctant to seek treatment.

Some people choose not to discuss their own illness, while
others would like to but are hesitant due to concerns stigma
creates, afraid of being misunderstood or judged, or that
someone's negative reaction would increase their feelings of
isolation and decrease their sense of self- worth.
Mental illness is a disease like any other and treatment is
very effective. A combination of medication, counseling, and
wellness activities along with education and support can be
tremendously helpful. When stigma isn't a barrier, people can
begin the journey to recovery by reaching out to someone they
are close to. If a friend or family member living with mental

10 Lehigh County Health & Medicine | FALL 2017

illness opens a discussion with you about their illness, your
willingness to support them can help in many ways. Here are
some examples of how talking about mental illness can help.
You can help lessen feelings of isolation. Many people living
with mental illness feel terribly alone, as if they are the only one
having this experience and simply having someone to listen and
let the individual know they are not alone can make a difference.
You can encourage or support professional treatment. This
should always be a goal for talking with someone who has an
untreated mental illness. Supportive family and friends play a
crucial role in successful recovery, but should never take the
place of physicians and therapists.
Suicide is preventable. Another compelling reason to discuss
mental illness is suicide prevention. While mental illness is only
one of many risk factors for suicide, it is a prevalent one: about



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