Last month I got a hold of a song that addresses the stigma of mental health head on. I wanted to know some background about the song and ended up finding out that it is a movement that is working its way from Louisiana, throughout the United States.
I had the opportunity to speak with Darrin L. Harris, Chief Executive Officer of Ekhaya Youth Project, Inc., about his initiative and organization that provides support families with mental and behavioral health challenges in Louisiana, and how the movement is spreading through song.
May is Mental Health Month and according to Community Network Services, “stigma is one of the biggest barriers associated with mental health.” So today I talked to Mr. Garrett about CNS and how they are committed to educating people about the importance of mental health, and eliminating “stigma.” (cnsmi.org)
Here are a few facts about the pervasiveness and effects of mental health in the United States (U.S.).
Approximately 27% of adults have a mental illness in any given year
Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year
97% of violent crimes are committed by people who do not have a mental health diagnosis
Approximately 105 people commit suicide every day in the U.S.
Approximately 20% of people who commit suicide are veterans of the U.S. Military
Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance abuse disorder, 50.5%, had a co-occurring mental illness
70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition
An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness
For more information about Community Network Services, call 800-615-0411 or visit cnsmi.org.
I’ve been trying to put into words how I feel about the death of actor Robin Williams but honestly the only thing I could come up with is, “depression is no joke.”
I’ve seen the hallow eyes of depression. The struggle to keep it all together. The eggshells cracking beneath the feet of careful walking. It’s real and we need to stop covering it up and address ways to help those struggling with all forms of mental illness.
What can we do for a person mentally ill?
Pray for them. Many have lost hope and are not in the position to pray their way out. That’s where the warriors need to stand in the gap.
Allow them to talk. Ask if they want you to just listen or if they are seeking advice. There’s nothing worse than unsolicited advice when you don’t feel well.
Love them. The feeling that no one cares, or understands is overwhelming.
Sometimes it’s extremely hard to discern whether you’re being manipulated, so it’s wise to avoid using words and statements that can be turned against you like, “you always do that! or, you need to snap out of it!” Also, be sure to set boundaries between you and the person battling depression or you can find your way down a very slippery slope.
There was a season where I was walking in the middle of the night with my son either outside if it was warm enough, or in 24-hour stores. He couldn’t sleep and I was afraid to allow him to walk alone because of his depression. The more I did that, the more fatigued I became. To the point where I became depressed as well from worry, lack of sleep and endlessly trying to “fix” him. I had to learn (it’s still a work in progress) to work on fixing me instead. The weight of his struggles and mine combined was too much to bear without help. So I got help… For me.
Please don’t ridicule a person who is mentally ill. Don’t put them down if they need to take medication or even the need for therapy. I can’t tell you how many people I wanted to flatten for telling me or my son to “increase your faith or you’ll get over it.”