By: Sonya Perkins, CSW
Sometimes we never feel more alone than when we are surrounded by people. We walk around wearing a mask of what we think we should be or what we think they want us to be and inside we are saying, “If they only knew the real me. No one could ever understand. No one cares. I can never show what is really going on inside.” Many of us who are suffering are scared to talk about it because we are afraid of being judged, misunderstood, rejected, or pitied. We isolate ourselves or try to hide the way we are feeling from those around us. It is easy to convince ourselves that we are the only ones with these problems and that there is no one who can help or understand. This often results in feeling worse as our negative thoughts spiral and we are left feeling hopeless. The reality is YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There are other people who have struggled or are struggling in their own unique way that are also in need of someone who understands and can empathize.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2011) about 25% of all adults in the United States currently have a mental illness and almost 50% will develop at least one in their lifetime. The National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.) reports that over 20% of children in the U.S. either currently have or previously have had a mental illness. These reports are referring only to diagnosable mental disorders. If we add in the people who suffer from bouts of depression, anxiety, stress, or other conditions that affect mood, thinking, and behavior but not to the extent that they can be diagnosed, the percentages would be much higher. With numbers like these we can be sure that all of us will be touched in some way by mental illness. We will either experience it ourselves or have a family member or friend who experiences it. If we don’t know of anyone in our life who has a mental illness, it simply means that someone we know is suffering in silence.
When we think about the number of people who are dealing with some form of mental illness it can help us to see that it is not abnormal to experience this and it is not necessary for us to remain in silence. We are not alone in our suffering and we don’t need to be alone in our search for healing. We can reach out for help from a friend, a relative, a support group, or a mental health professional. We can find someone to talk to that cares about us and makes us feel safe and important. Someone that we trust to understand the depth of our pain, accept us as we are, and help us on our healing journey. As we embrace the concept that we are not alone, shake off any perceived stigma, and ask for help we then provide ourselves with very thing we need to begin our healing.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). CDC Report: Mental illness surveillance among adults in the United States. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealthsurveillance/fact_sheet.html
National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.). Any disorder among children. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-disorder-among-children.shtml