OPINION: Mental health issues: An Unseeable Truth

Most people will agree that physical health is of utmost importance to living a long and healthy life. Eating well, going to the gym, are all things that a ‘physically healthy’ person usually incorporates to their life. Would just as many people agree with that mental health is just as important as physical health, especially when it comes to living a long life? Probably not.

When someone becomes sick with any illness, there is usually a physical sign that tells them just that. Whether it be a cough, sneeze, runny nose, or even having a bald head, people can usually see that there is something wrong. When a sick person goes to a doctor, they usually get prescribed some sort of antibiotic that will cure them of their sickness. When someone shows signs of a tumor growing in their body, surgery is done in order to remove it. But what about the schizophrenic or bipolar person who is in a state of psychosis? What about the person who is so set on not eating that they need a feeding tube just to survive? Although these types of illnesses can not be easily seen just by looking at someone who suffers from a mental illness, they are just as deadly as any physical illness.

Many people see mental illnesses such as major depressive disorder as a ‘choice’ or something that someone can just snap out of, which is not at all the case. It is a very misunderstood disease that takes the lives of thousands of people each year, usually by suicide. In America, more people die from suicide than cancer, homicide, or AIDS. But this is not a matter of comparison, because mental illnesses and physical illnesses are just as deadly as one another.

I speak of this due to personal experiences that taught me this. In February of 2014, I was admitted into an intensive outpatient program for mainly anorexia nervosa, a type of mental disorder. I was mentally unstable, which caused me to become physically unhealthy as well. I could not become physically healthy again until I started to become mentally/emotionally healthy again, not vice versa. I first needed to start eating again, to have my brain start to work properly again. Some people would ask me, “Why can’t you just eat?” But it is not that simple. I couldn’t just ‘choose’ to start eating normally again all that quickly and have my health be in order, just like someone does not choose to have cancer. Eating disorders are in no way a person’s choice to have, and why would someone choose to have that anyways? It is a very real and a very deadly disease that kills many women and men, every single day. For that matter, no sort of mental illness is someone’s choice. A person does not just wake up and decide to become bipolar or schizophrenic. No one chooses to become a prisoner of their own mind.

Just because someone may appear to be healthy, does not automatically mean that they are. It can feel much easier to put on a smile and pretend everything is okay rather than facing the demons that inhabit one’s mind. The scars that depression or anxiety can leave are not visible to the human eye, unless you’re the one having to live with them. But that does not mean they do not exist or are not as important or significant enough to call attention to. Although, most, if not all, mental illnesses/disorders are not curable, does not mean there is not hope. There are many kinds of medication that a psychiatrist can prescribe their patient. Even though antidepressants do not cure depression, they sure can help the life of someone with depression feel a lot more worth living.

The month of May is Mental Health Awareness month, which I hope does bring some more awareness to the masses for there are so many stigmas and misconceptions about mental illnesses. It is a lot harder to battle something on your own, especially when no one really understands your battle. Just because you can’t physically see something, does not mean it doesn’t exist.