Many people either do not recognize—or are in denial—that they have a mental illness, even though mental illnesses are treatable and commonly widespread in our society.
This can be due to fear and anxiety about being judged or stigmatized by others, not being prepared to cope with learning that they have a mental illness, or their loved one has a mental illness. Because of this, many people fail to recognize that mental illness does not define who you are!
You have a diagnosis of mental illness, but you are not your mental illness. You are not schizophrenic, autistic or depressed. You have diagnosis of schizophrenia, autism or depression. Having a mental illness does not mean you are robbed of the opportunities to have a quality life, such as having a job, being in a relationship, building a family, having safe housing, having access to health care and/or being affiliated with a certain group.
It is important to recognize that even though you have a mental illness and some challenges associated with your mental illness symptoms, you still have many strengths and abilities that help you move forward in life to achieve your goals and dreams.
There is nothing to be ashamed of for having a mental illness. Having a mental illness is like having a medical problem: It is your body's way of telling you something is off, and it is time to do something about it by seeking help.
Mental illness is treatable! Most people with mental illness continue to function in their daily lives and are able to live a fulfilling life. If you feel you are unable to manage your mental illness—experiencing significant symptoms that cause significant distress or impairment in social, work or other important areas of functioning—seek professional support. There is nothing to be ashamed of for seeking support. When you get the flu and a high fever for a couple of days, you will seek medical attention; when you are feeling mentally exhausted and sick, make sure to seek mental health attention.
Written by Maram Hekhuis, LMSW, an Outpatient Therapist at Cherry Health.