The next time you are out and about, take a look at the people around you. The chances are pretty good that one in five has struggled with a mental illness. They may be dealing with chronic bouts of depression or anxiety, a posttraumatic stress disorder, or a psychotic illness among other things.
May is Mental Health Month. This is a good time to make a conscious effort to help make a difference for those who are plagued with a biological brain disorder. Here are some suggestions:
1. Help erase the stigma of mental illness. We all need affirmation, respect, and support, not scorn and ridicule. Positive relationships are one of the most important indicators of a successful recovery for a person with a mental illness. Better yet, a smile and kind word to all the people who interact with us during the day can only help to brighten the world for everyone. I guarantee that it will make you feel better, too.
2. Support legislators and legislation that addresses the needs of those with a mental illness.
3. Learn about mental illness. The NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has wonderful Web sites loaded with all kinds of information and opportunities. Nami.org is the national site and namihelps.org is the Minnesota site. There are many excellent memoirs written by those who have struggled with a mental illness. Ask at your local bookstore or library. A favorite of mine is An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison. There are many movies that portray the mentally ill with compassion and respect. A current movie out in the movie theaters is The Soloist.
4. Support NAMI. NAMI North Central Region (including the counties of Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena) is your local connection to the state and national networks. We offer education, advocacy, and support as we champion justice, dignity, and respect for all people affected by mental illness. For more information or to receive our newsletter call (888) NAMI-HELPS (prompt 6). Membership information can be found on local brochures or at the state Web site.
Utilizing these suggestions will help you to lend a hand up rather than a hand out to all who deal with this devastating illness.
Dagny Trucano of Brainesrd is a member of the NAMI-NCR Board.
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