Lessons I'm Still Learning About Mental Illness

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Disclaimer: All information, data and material contained, presented, or provided on this post is written from my first hand experiences of mental illness from loved ones. It is not to be construed or intended as providing medical or legal advice. Decisions you make about your family’s healthcare are important and should be made in consultation with a competent medical professional. I’m not a physician and do not claim to be.

For those that don’t know what Yik Yak is, it’s another social media network that you can post updates on anonymously.

It was Dec 8th, 2015 at 2:20 am. (What? I work when other people are sleeping, no judging here, deal!)

They said that being lonely is getting the better of them and they considered ending their life.

Same thing this year. Another person said if I passed away would any one notice or think of me? And the other yak said I’m feeling sad and down on myself. That was around January 19th.

It amazes me how many people commented reached out to these people for help. The thread was super long, mentioning places this person should go and are these people ok? As millienials many of us have a reputation of being into ourselves and feeling entitled. I hear it all the time from people. But these “Yaks” prove that wrong.


1. Mental illness is mental illness.

The treatment of people with mental illnesses is not handled well. I know from watching and from personal experience with loved ones. As I write this, I continue to learn.

We don’t think to turn away people with diseases or cancers from hospitals. We don’t ostracize or punish people with genetic or physiological conditions, so why is this the case with mental health conditions? So why the stigma? And overall, why do we still hesitate to treat mental illness the same way we treat other health conditions?

There’s a stigma because society in general has stereotypical views about mental illness and how it makes people tick. Many people think that people with mental illness are not safe to be around and can cause harm. What I have learned? They have a slightly higher chance being targeted or harming themselves than harming other people.

Mental illness stigma and discrimination by itself can also worsen someone’€™s mental health problems, and trap people in a hamster wheel cycle of illness. Stigma and discrimination can keep them from seeking help in the first place. Not being welcomed, poor housing conditions, not finding work and living I poverty are all linked to mental illness (I explain more about this below).

People with mental illnesses are able to turn things around, but only when the problem is acknowledged and not ignored. Denying its existence allows it to fester and makes it worst. Some mental health problems come from chemical brain imbalances and some happens from certain life events have been so impactful that the person continues to have flashbacks from them. People from both categories benefit from seeking help and treatment which leads to recovery.

A person with mental health issues is more likely of any group with a long-term health condition or illness to:

  • Not Live in a livable home and find stable employment

  • Not be in a stable committed relationship and to be included/welcomed in society

  • Be labeled and stereotyped as threatening, a ticking time bomb and precarious.

These scenarios can be aggravated by the media. As I write this post, the media associated mental illness with criminal activity, or displayed people with mental health problems as hazardous, deadly, or very disabled and unable to live normal lives THREE TIMES. (While there are a few dangerous ones out there, everyone is not the same. Depression comes along in many different ways; no two people will go through the exact same journey.)

2. Depression is real.

Unfortunately, depression is interpreted as a weakness to some. What if “useful” or “logical” advice about mental illness were given about physical problems?

"Helpful advice"
"Helpful advice"
Worst things you can tell someone who is depressed.
Worst things you can tell someone who is depressed.

3. Someone out there relates and understands what’s happening to you.

These threads got really deep. One started saying that their family wouldn’t let them seek help until they attempted to take their own life. Keep in mind this is supposed to be an anonymous network, yet there was a bond between people on this thread.

And people started listing where they went for help, what they did (and what they are still doing), and started exchanging numbers. The support was amazing to see.

They appear to be just fine on the outside, but on the inside, that little voice tells you you’re worthless, you’re not this, you’re that, nobody loves me.
It is one of the hardest things in the world to love someone with depression. It is incredibly difficult to love someone that really can’t love themselves. But the most important thing you can do is love them. And the worst thing you can do is give up on someone that has already given up on themselves. - Alexandra Dale Taylor

Someone out there understands.

4. It’s OK to not be perfect. It’s OK to not be OK.

It’s okay to mourn our losses. It’s okay to hurt for the dreams that didn’t work out. It’s okay to not have things figured out. We really need to address and talk about what social media doesn’t show, like those the blank spaces in between the statuses and photos. When you see photos of your friends, do you say amazing life? (Yes I totally do say the amazing life for friends). Or do you think. “All I’ve seen about your life is amazing.” Now I’m not saying to analyze every photo and say “I wonder how long they had to wait in line or did they have to wait two hours in traffic.” Hell, I don’t do that and don’t read so much into it. If my friends appear and talk about how happy they were, I assume the cuties were happy.


But how many times have you smiled in a photo and posted it on social media when the story really went something like this.

“Here’s how it really was in that photo: “I had no money, or, “That concert was terrible and I was angry I paid all that money. I had no room to breathe, or “we were stuck in the airport overnight due to that snowstorm.” Things mess up in life and it’s ok! The deeper questions that made me think (and I hope you all have conversations about!).

Is the life you’re projecting on social media overpowering the reality you are privately sharing? Is the life you’re posting online different from the one you’re actually living? Can you apply that same logic when looking at posted lives of others?

Not suggesting you air every detail of your dirty laundry on social media for the world to see, but it is something to think about.

Remember: It’s OK to not be perfect. It’s OK to not be OK.

5. Yes someone would miss you.

Someone in the world will miss you. What was said? If you pass away, we’ll never know what you will grow into.

The sun wouldn’t shine as bright if you weren’t around.

6. Everyone is capable of saving someone and making a difference.

By simply talking openly about mental illnesses you are helping to end the stigma and spread awareness. You can make a difference, yes you!

In the first week of January 2016, I read yet another Facebook status on my Facebook of someone passing away due to suicide. This unfortunately has become my new normal. I decided to make it one of my causes because it’s happened way too many times! Some people, who will remain nameless, weren’t that nice toward me when I approached them with issues involving mental illness. I was blown off saying it “was no big deal.”

I really didn’t think I would jump into suicide and mental illness prevention work like this. Several years ago I would have looked at you saying “No Way.” And yes it is a big deal even if I was ignored before.

Important Side note: Homicides and suicides are #2 and #3 causes of death among young people and teenagers. There is a link between mental illness and gun violence. Many school shooters have documented suicidal issues or suicide is on their mind. I’m not sure if I will or if I should write a full post on this. If we address mental illness at the first sign of a psychosis episode instead of ignoring it and waiting until it’s out of control then we can take a step in the right direction. When Indiana governor Mike Pence recently announced that a new mental hospital is opening, I became really happy!

Are you into suicide prevention/mental illness work? If so I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for reading my post! If you like this post, feel free to hit follow! I plan on writing more posts on a variety of subjects. Original Post Here

Follow Alesha Peterson On Twitter: https://twitter.com/aleshapeterson

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.