This sure is a busy time on the mental health front! It is Mental Illness Awareness Week as well as OCD Awareness Week. Also, today is World Mental Health Day. While each event has its own sponsor and focus (you can click on the links for details), the aim of each of these organizations is to raise awareness of various mental health issues and disorders. By raising awareness we can educate people about these often misunderstood illnesses, and reduce (hopefully someday even eradicate) the stigma that still surrounds mental illness.
But it’s not just OCD, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. that need to be understood. We need to look closely at the people who are suffering from these illnesses, because only then will we realize that “they” are no different from “us.” In fact, they are us. At some point during our lives, most of us will have some type of mental health issue. So when we advocate for mental health awareness, we are advocating for more than just knowledge of specific mental illnesses. We are advocating for our mothers, fathers, children, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We are advocating for our friends, peers, co-workers, and acquaintances. We are advocating for ourselves.
When celebrities we “know” reveal they have mental health issues, it can be powerful. We have a certain perception of them already that does not include mental illness, and I think it’s easier to see them as just people who have some issues as opposed to “that guy with OCD.” Buzz Aldrin has battled depression, JK Rowling has OCD, and Catherine Zeta-Jones has bipolar disorder. These illnesses do not define them, just as those who suffer from heart disease or cancer, or whatever, are not defined by their diseases.
My hope for this “awareness week” is that people become more in tune to the fact that we are all in this together. We all have our struggles and challenges. That is part of the human condition. None of us is more “normal” than the other. The sooner we realize this, the quicker acceptance and understanding will follow.