Woman Staring Out WindowI believe that the mind makes us who we are as individuals, and the body keeps us going. Yes, the mind is what it is due to neurological components, brain chemistry, and many other things scientists don’t even understand yet, but nonetheless, it is the mind that makes each individual unique. For this reason, among many others, mental health is extremely important. Unfortunately, attention and proper care is lacking in this country.

Finally, a prominent and powerful figure has taken a stance and decided to make an important difference in society regarding this matter: First Lady Obama has initiated new efforts to improve mental health in the lives of Americans.

As a committed activist, I’ve said it many times before and I will say it again: mental health affects us all in one way or another. Whether a family member suffers from an illness, you know a friend going through a difficult time, you personally struggle in silence with things going on internally that you don’t understand, or even just hearing about the tragic stories of suicide and mass shootings—we can all relate to the health topic and benefit from better mental health care.

At the launch of the Campaign to Change Direction, Mrs. Obama said,

“Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness. It shouldn’t be treated differently.”

I absolutely couldn’t have said it any better. That’s the way it should be, but society doesn’t treat illnesses of the mind the same way as heart disease or kidney failure. Think about it; would your friends react the same way to a diagnosis of cancer as if you told them you were diagnosed with schizophrenia? Probably not, though both diseases are serious and scary to live with.

“There should be absolutely no stigma around mental health. None. Zero.” The First Lady is correct. That should be reality, but it is not right now. So what are we as a culture, as a people devoted to living healthy and happy lives, going to do to change that?

The process is going to be long and challenging, but the First Lady is making a huge impact just by speaking out. I commend her for using her popularity and position of power to show everyone that having a psychological disorder is not a matter of “crazy” people, or something that anyone should be ashamed of. She has started the process of normalizing mental illness simply by talking about it.

That’s the first step of the cultural shift that needs to happen. So many live in anguish with their illness because they’re afraid to seek help— due to the way society views the mentally ill. Death is often a resort for those who do not receive any kind of help. Can we really live without guilt, knowing that our stereotyping and negative views are ultimately leading to suicides?emotional-stressors

The campaign Mrs. Obama is backing stresses the importance of everyone learning and spreading awareness of the five signs of emotional suffering, which can indicate a person needing help. I encourage all individuals to take heed of the following information!

  • Withdrawal

No longer spending time with friends, staying at home alone most of the time, or not talking to family members, are all expressions of this symptom.

  • Personality change
  • Agitation

This sign can manifest as becoming angry over small issues that one normally wouldn’t react to, or always seeming to be on edge about something.

  • Poor self-care

This can be characterized by an individual no longer caring about his/her appearance, letting days go by without showering, and just a general disregard for hygiene—all unusual for the person of concern.

  • Hopelessness

Expressing thoughts of giving up on a job or task, or life itself, are huge indicators. In addition, making remarks about how pointless things are, how he/she doesn’t matter, or that actions and consequences aren’t of a concern, should be noted— especially because suicide coincides with a lot of mental illnesses.

42.5 million Americans, 1 in 5 adults, live with a diagnosable mental disorder every year (NIMH). Think about that the next time someone says that mental health “isn’t a thing” or isn’t a big deal. Such a widespread problem of physical wellbeing should be treated as an epidemic. That’s what we have on our hands, but such illnesses are of the invisible kind—striking potently and dangerously in ways that go unnoticed by others, only causing more distress for the victims.

In the words of our courageous and change-instigating First Lady, “Getting help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.” If you would like to get help for yourself or someone you know, consider Dallas Anxiety Counseling Services.

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AUTHOR: Jada Jackson, MS, LMHC – Communicator, Coach & Licensed Mental Health Counselor working with couples, teens, young adults and women empowerment issues in Dallas, Texas! If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, consider Dallas Anxiety Counseling Services. You can contact Jada Jackson for Dallas Anxiety Therapy Services at (407) 248-0030.

AUTHOR: Emily Simpson (Intern)

References: First Lady Speaks Up