May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which seems oddly scheduled amidst warm sun and soft rain and vibrant flowers. Maybe February would be more appropriate, with its attempt to protest a deficit of days by fitting all the ugliest weather into them. The thing is, though, that while some seasons can be more challenging than others depending on what you’re dealing with, mental illness is just as real on the bright, golden days as it is on the days when everything is gray and the sky is spitting out the last dregs of winter.
Hiding in plain sight
Because we’ve been taught that mental illness is a weakness, we learn to hide the pain we’re feeling. We stare at the ceiling, clench our fists until our fingernails dig sharply into our palms, and cry in the shower…and then we dry our tears and dry our hair and pretend that everything is ok. The truth is, though, that 1 in 5 Americans is affected by a mental health condition, so chances are, you’re either one of those 43.8 million people, or you know (at least) one of them.
Maybe you just celebrated your first Mother’s Day under the shadow of postpartum depression. Maybe your partner is quietly battling crippling anxiety. Maybe your best friend missed your last play date because she just couldn’t face the stress of taking the kids out in public.
The term “mental health” covers a lot of ground, so of course some issues are more severe than others. You might be able to keep mild anxiety under control with exercise or a meditation practice. Someone with Seasonal Affective Disorder may be able to manage symptoms with light therapy and a vitamin D supplement, and while it’s not always the case, they really might be OK in May even though they weren’t in February. However, 1 in 25 adults in America are living with serious mental illness, and that’s even harder to navigate.
Regardless of where someone falls on the mental health spectrum, every human being deserves to live the best, most fulfilling life possible. It’s universally true, then, that if you’re struggling, whether it’s a lot or a little, you should ask for help. That’s where a big problem arises, though.
Because our society has placed such a stigma on mental illness, many people who need help are afraid to ask. And because our healthcare system doesn’t always prioritize mental health the way it should, help isn’t always accessible even when they do ask. As a result, 60% of Americans who suffer from mental conditions receive no treatment of any kind. That’s a pretty shameful statistic for a country with so many resources.
Talk. Listen. Learn.
So what can you do to help change the way we look at mental health?
You can talk. If you’ve experienced mental health issues personally, or if mental illness has touched your life in any way, share your story bravely. When you witness someone contributing to the stigma surrounding mental health, speak up firmly. If mental healthcare access is in jeopardy, call your congresspeople, educate yourself on the issues, and vote in the way that you feel best protects it.
You can listen. If you see a friend or family member struggling, offer open ears and open arms. If you see a stranger suffering, offer compassion. If you’ve done anything to invalidate or dismiss the impact of mental disorders and conditions in the past, humbly allow yourself to be educated and see if you still feel the same way.
You can learn. Mental illness is scary. If your life is affected by it, it’s tempting to just pretend it doesn’t exist and hope it goes away…but that approach rarely works. So if it’s yours, own it. If it’s somebody else’s, acknowledge it. And then get started on the process of handling it. Keep in mind, though, that “handling it” isn’t something you have to—or should—do alone. For all of our differences, people are built to work together.
While external factors certainly aren’t the only cause of or contributor to mental health issues, reducing stress can go a long way. If you aren’t happy at your job, take the time to spruce up your resume and scope out your options. If your marriage or other relationships are suffering, look for ways to strengthen communication, assess the situation, and rebuild what’s broken.
If you’re holding onto things you don’t need, whether they’re metaphorical things, like grudges, or actual things, like the clothes you’ll never wear again or the books you’ll never read again or the kitchen gadgets with comically specific functions, let them go. And see how light you feel.
The elephant #ontheblog
We know what you’re probably wondering as you read this: will a mental health condition affect someone’s chances of finding affordable life insurance?
The truth is, there’s a chance it might…but there’s also a chance it might not.
The thing about mental health is that it’s difficult to define, and it’s even more difficult to measure. It’s simple enough to determine whether you have high blood pressure or cholesterol, but even if you’ve been diagnosed with a specific mental illness or disorder, there’s such a broad range of severity and wide array of possible symptoms that the only way to handle things is case by case.
So what we’re saying is, don’t assume you won’t qualify for life insurance if you are living with a mental health condition. Don’t even assume that your premiums will be inaccessibly high. Just give us a call to speak with our expert agents, and take it from there.
At Our Life Covered℠, our product is life insurance, but our mission is helping people live longer, healthier, more financially secure lives.
No matter what you’re dealing with personally, we know your biggest concerns usually revolve around the people you love. That’s why we’ll ALWAYS do our best to help you find life insurance that meets your needs and eases your mind.