Understanding is something we all crave, and those suffering from mental illness are no different. They don’t know how to explain what they are experiencing. Often they are asked what they have to be sad about, or someone battling anxiety is told to just “let it go”. Yet we would ever ask someone with diabetes why they need insulin. We understand that the pancreas fails to make the insulin necessary to balance sugars in the body.
Mental illnesses are medical conditions. The brain does not produce balanced chemicals to balance emotions. Emotions impact our thoughts and behaviors. Insisting they “get over it,” or “toughen up,” will not fix a medical condition. These suggestions increase shame, isolation and depression.
Instead, let’s approach those learning to manage their mental illness the same way we would someone trying to heal after major surgery, with compassion, support and a listening ear. After all, the mind and body all belong to one vessel, and that vessel may be attached to the face and voice of someone you love.
Let’s lead with love.
Shannon Olson, LCSW (Clinical Director)