“Why don’t you just get over it?” It’s a question those battling mental illness are confronted with on a regular basis. Mental illness is a disease that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood and can range from an anxiety disorder or depression, to more severe forms of mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Telling a person to “just get over it” is like telling someone who just broke their leg to “walk it off.” Despite the fact that an estimated 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental illness in a given year, the stigma surrounding this disease discourages more than 40 percent from seeking treatment. Even with increased awareness and a greater willingness to discuss mental health issues in recent years, a lack of education and understanding about this disease among the general public contributes to lingering stigma.
For someone struggling with severe mental illness, long-term success is something that must be worked toward every day. Making a point to reach out to the individual on a regular basis and remembering to have a sense of humor can be one of the best ways to provide support for your loved one. There are also many organizations, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Born This Way and Mental Health America, which provide support and resources for those with mental illness and their families to help them better understand and cope with this disease.