A personal perspective on Mental Health Awareness month

A personal perspective on Mental Health Awareness month
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Simply labeling someone as “crazy” is now a thing of the past and has been left in the same dumpster we left oversized clothing, Pokemon cards, and spinning rims. On Monday, the city council decided it is time for the city to get with the times and start the conversation on mental health by recognizing May as Mental Health Awareness Month.

“…just last week an individual died by suicide;  jumping from an overpass to onto I-85 near north Sugar Creek and was hit by multiple vehicles. I did not know the individual personally, but I can relate with the thoughts of suicide.” – Rwenshaun Miller, Mental Health Advocate

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I labeled everyone with a mental illness as crazy until I read Rwenshaun’s story about his mental health struggles.

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I went to college with Rwenshaun (we call him Shaun). When I saw him around campus, we would shoot the breeze and yet had no clue about his struggles. Why? The stigma of discussing mental health is all too strong. I saw him, he looked fine on the outside so I assumed everything was going well. It was not until I read his blog that I realized this issue can be close to home, and it is okay to discuss your personal struggles with mental illness.

“Fear. Ego. Ignorance. Stigma. Those were the things that made me ‘believe’ that I didn’t have a problem when nothing in my life seemed to be going right. I constantly told myself ‘this can’t be life’. Unable to concentrate on any one thing, I sat in the same spot for hours. Feeling alone. Feeling confused.” via Rwenshaun’s blog, Monumental Monomental

Mental Health Awareness is more important than you might think. You could be like me and think that this could never affect you or anyone around you.

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I asked Shaun why Charlotte should care and why we as a community need to break out of our comfort zone on this issue. He said “the stigma associated with mental illness hinders many people from seeking the treatment that they need because of fear, ignorance, ego. Mental illness is not limited to a particular race, gender, or social class. It affects each and every person.”

As a man, society’s rules on masculinity and the need to avoid being vulnerable make discussing mental health taboo; in the black community, mental health is even more of a taboo.

Discussing mental health requires one to become vulnerable and fight against the stigma society has created around this issue, no matter the person’s background. He continued, “Until we as a society begin to talk about it, encourage people to seek treatment, and become more knowledgeable on the topic, people will continue to suffer.”

Discussing mental health means we shed the archaic ways of labeling people as crazy and treat mental health as we should treat any other illness: with respect and understanding. Let’s do more than wear green ribbons in May in support of Mental Health Awareness Month Let’s open our minds to a new way of thinking. Let’s avoid labels, start understanding, and help others in our community feel comfortable to seek treatment.

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