Raising Awareness of Mental Health Issues

I saw a sign today. It was in my psychiatrist's office, and it told me that May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

I saw a sign today. It was in my psychiatrist’s office, and it told me that May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

In a way, it was a clairvoyant sign, because I didn’t have a blog topic for this week until I saw it. As uncomfortable as they still are for many, mental health issues need to be brought to light.

The days of keeping a crazy uncle in the attic are far behind us, but we as a society today aren’t exactly jumping to talk about mental illness. I’ve been talking about it for years, but not too many others have followed suit. All mental illnesses—anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, addiction, and every other psychological malady—must be brought front and center.

Adam Lanza was a social misfit for years, and no one did much about it. Then, the Sandy Hook school shooting happened, and all of a sudden, it was discovered much too late that he was socially maladjusted.

Had there been an early intervention, then perhaps 20 children and 6 incredibly brave educators and administrators would still be alive. I feel that if proper psychiatric care were made readily available, and if individuals acted on the signs that scream the need for help, a lot of tragedy could be avoided.

Although Lanza is an extreme case, there are millions who suffer in silence and isolation, battling demons that only they understand. Others, including myself, at one time fly fast and loose on the brink of certain disaster, straining marriages, friendships, and bank accounts, sometimes past the point of repair.

Thankfully, my family and friends are quite understanding and forgiving. As one of my closet friends put it, I was lucky that I didn’t have “papers” waiting for me to sign on the kitchen table with my suitcases packed.

I’ll be married 20 years in September, and I’ve learned that “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health” are more than just words you say on your wedding day.

Perhaps more individuals would be willing to seek help if the plank-in-the-eye stigma of mental illness could go away. When my grandfather had open heart surgery, everyone wanted to see his scar. You can’t see mine, but they’re there.

My scars show that despite everything I’ve endured from early childhood to today, I’m still here. I’ve overcome a lot, made a great life for myself, and the funny thing is, I’m just getting started.

Mental illness doesn’t have to be hidden along with the patient who has it. Treatments these days are wonderful, and with medical cannabis potentially coming to a state near you, even more doors are opening.

If you’re having trouble, help is out there. Take advantage of it and then go and see what the world holds for you. I think you’ll be surprised to learn that it isn’t as bad as it looks.

Jay Sochoka, RPh isn’t crazy; he’s bipolar.