What I Learned in May (aka Mental Health Awareness Month)

mental health awareness month

Ignorance can kill you (or at least hurt someone you love) #mentalhealth #stopthestigma Click To Tweet

Until last March, I had very little awareness of the varity and severity of different mental health issues.  I used the word ‘crazy’ with abandon and insensitivity.  If people didn’t agree with me, or their actions seemed incomprehensible to my moral code or background, I wrote them off as loco.

Things have changed. Our family went through a harrowing journey when our youngest daughter experienced an epic manic episode–not her first one, evidently, but the first one that we witnessed and experienced with her.

I don’t use the words crazy or loco any more.

This year, I decided to focus on bringing awareness to others about the different mental health challenges that ordinary people face.  Since I didn’t know much, I called on other brave souls to write about their experiences and share them with our readers.

I learned a lot.  In no particular order, I’ll share the highlights with you.

  1.  I had no idea that harm OCD existed. Instead of the need to wash one’s hands repeatedly, suffers imagine that they will do bodily harm to those they love.
  2. Whilst prayer plays an important part in healing, Christians should avoid bad advice to those who disclose a mental anguish to them.
  3. Jim Miles taught me that ‘Leprosy’ in the Bible doesn’t just mean what we know as leprosy today.  It included acne and rashes and other skin disorders.  The point?  God made us smart enough to come up wtih therapies (medicinal and talk) that help us overcome our mental health issues such as post-partum depression.
  4. The church plays an important role coming alongside those who suffer from mental health problems (and their families).  Tara Ulrich gives some great advice.
  5. Marisa Slusarcyk shared with us the horrific cost of mental illness (and the fact that a person can suffer from more than one at a time). Bottom line? Don’t judge.  You never know what combination of chemistry and trauma brought on a person’s mental state.
  6. Don’t confuse adolsecent angst and defiance with the warning signs of the onset of bipolar disorder. You NEED to know the difference.  Education saves lives.
  7. Guest writer Marie Gregg made me think about anxiety disorders in a whole new way.
  8. Every heard of Caregiver PTSD? I called it chemo-brain by proxy. With more and more family members tending to the physical and emotional needs of the sick and elderly, the incidence of Caregiver PTSD will rise.
  9. Don’t ever think that people with PTSD make this stuff up. Be gentle in your interactions and once again, never judge. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser shares great advice on how to relate to someone with PTSD.

God created us with incredible capacities to learn, love, bounce back, adapt, change and thrive.  I challenge you to educate yourself about how you can best react to the hurting people around you. I’d also appreciate it if you would share any of these posts on your social media channels to help spread the word about mental health awareness. Together, we can purpose to #DoNoHarm and #Stopthe Stigma!

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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