Strong sporty man sitting on gym bench with towel on face, suffering breakdown to overcome. Frustration sport concept.

Breaking the Silent Stigma

In 2019, CDC analyzed data from more than 144,000 adults in 25 states and found that 61% experienced at least one adverse childhood experience. Adding in the numerous traumas of the Covid-19 pandemic ranging from child abuse to divorce to homelessness to the loss of a loved one, I would guess that percentage has grown exponentially. Why is this important? Trauma is the leading cause of challenges to our mental health. Why talk about this now? In the last three months, we have seen the highest number of talented college athletes, highly-regarded musicians/celebrities, successful adults, and young, loved children with a big future ahead of them, join the growing ranks of those finding themselves in the darkest of places with suicide as their final choice. 

This is not a comfortable topic for most. I would say that this is one of the topics that gets avoided more than any other, and that is one of the very reasons mental health challenges and mental illnesses result in isolation, hopelessness, and desperation. Let’s take a minute to say what needs to be said.

Mental health impacts all of us! The struggle is very REAL. However, we don’t talk about it because there is a stigma associated with mental health issues and the unfair marks of shame. 

Mental health is the state of our mind, feelings, and emotions—both positive and negative. The reality is that all individuals will find themselves with mental health issues while navigating (and trying to cope with) life experiences. In other words, being sad, unhappy, or stressed because of difficult situations is a mental health issue — a moment of poor mental health; while mental illness affects a person’s ability to function over a period of time and is a diagnosable disease that complicates our mental health. 
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), every year:

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness with 19% living with anxiety disorders, 8% living with depressive disorders, and 12 million having serious thoughts of suicide.
  • 1 in 3 young adults experience mental illness with suicide rising to the second leading cause of death in individuals between 10-and 34 years of age.

The impact of the pandemic on our mental health has been significant and points to the importance of breaking the silent stigma so we can increase access to timely and effective care for those who need it so hope and recovery are possible.

In other words, depression, anxiety, and stress are NOT unique to you and they are also not something to just “get over.” Traumatic experiences have been happening to us and around us more than ever. It’s time for us all to ask “how am I doing?” How has trauma impacted my day-to-day life, my choices, and my mental health? Only you know what it even means to be okay; and if you aren’t okay, there is help.

So say it with me – “I'm struggling. I am feeling ____(fill in the blank). Even you need to say, “I need help.” There is no stigma with mental health when you realize that you are not alone! The only way we can ever truly break the silent stigma around mental health and mental illness is to claim and own the reality that a diagnosis, disability, or challenge does not define any of us. You/WE are so much more. As with other serious illnesses, mental illness is not your fault. 

If you are struggling with your mental health, talk to your healthcare provider, look for employee assistance programs at your work or call a crisis hotline (1-800-950-NAMI). 

“The world needs your presence, not your perfection.”

(To Write Love On Her Arms)