Mental illness affects everyone; whether you yourself have a mental illness or are a friend, coworker, neighbor, or family member of someone who does experience mental illness. It is extremely common for people to experience mental illness.It is our civic duty as a society to keep ourselves acknowledged about mental health and aware of how it may affect us all in our everyday lives.
Many mental health disorders overlap each other when it comes to symptoms. It’s important for us to recognize the symptoms that are most common within the diagnosis of most disorders.
Depression could present itself in various ways depending on who experiences it but it is generally defined and characterized by the following symptoms: sadness, lack of motivation, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, elevated tiredness, and perceived low self-worth. People are diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) when these feelings are present for more than 2 weeks and their daily functioning is impaired due to these emotions and symptoms. People do not have to be diagnosed with MDD to still experience depression. Some people experience depression without expressing all of the symptoms or it affecting their abilities to work and complete daily tasks; this phenomenon is known as high functioning depression. Depression is one of the most common mental disorder worldwide and often is labeled as a symptom for other disorders like bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder.
Everyone experiences anxiety but for some, feelings of anxiety could become so severe that it impairs their daily functioning and becomes a disorder. Anxiety disorders are defined as uncontrollable fears that are disproportionate to real dangers and are disruptive to life. The most common anxiety disorder is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and is diagnosed when anxiety persists for at least 6 months. Whether you are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or not, you may still experience anxiety attacks and panic attacks.
Characterized with restlessness, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, and dizziness
Usually is caused by specific triggers that cause stress that gradually intensifies
Could persist for a long period of time
Characterized with the same characteristics of an anxiety attack plus excessive sweating, trembling, chest pain, fear of losing control, fear of dying, hot flashes and chills, and numbness or tingling sensations
Often mistaken and very similar to a heart attack
Triggered by overwhelming stress or intense reactions
occur instantly & without warning
Other anxiety disorders include panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Manic episodes are described as elevated mood swings, risky behavior, alertness with no sleep, pressured speech, and goal-directed behavior. Manic episodes usually occur for people with bipolar disorders. For people diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, these episodes will usually occur within separated intervals varying from 6 months to a year.
American artist Halsey is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and expresses her experiences with manic episodes through her music and album titled Manic.
"I think our culture, in a way, has an obsession and a distaste for the 'crazy woman.' We love her but we also weaponize that word against her."
-Halsey's thoughts on the public's portrayal of the "pixie dream girl" in her conversation with Dr. Snehi Kapu on bipolar disorder.
Stigmas Against Mental Illness
A problem we often see in society is that support for people who have mental illnesses ends when it becomes an inconvenience. Before the pandemic, many students who have struggled with mental illnesses like ADHD and anxiety disorders were told that universal online teaching accommodations to fit with their mental health concerns were not possible. These accommodations were not made universally accessible until a physically contracted disease started to spread. A previous student I have worked with online has disclosed with me their relief in being able to attend school and tutoring meetings completely online due to their struggles with social anxiety. This has not always been a big issue with upper education institutions that have been able to provide most classes in person and online; but for those who attend lower education institutions like middle school and high school, online classes were not a prevalent accommodation made for mentally ill individuals.
South Korean artist Min Yoongi advocates for mental health and discusses these topics through his music and "Love Myself" anti-violence campaign partnered with UNICEF.
"if they talk about depression for example like it’s the common cold, then it becomes more and more accepted if it’s a common disorder like the cold."
People refuse to accept mental illness as a legitimate health concern that could disrupt and interfere with an individual’s life. There needs to be a universal understanding that mental health and physical health are equally important. The more we establish and discuss the importance of maintaining a well-being and stable mental state, the more comfortable everyone will be to speak up about their mental health concerns.
People who are most vulnerable to mental illnesses tend to those within minority groups. 44% of people who have a mental illness in the United States are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Mixed/multiracial adults are the second largest group of people who live with a mental illness making up 32% of all mentally ill individuals. These minority groups face discrimination and hate often from homophobic and racist individuals. Raising awareness of the mental damage these minority groups face due to all this hate opens the door for people to take action in providing sources of help for them to reach out to such as the Trevor Project.
American artist Lil Nas X who has a history of hypochondria, depression, and suicidal thoughts has recently been named the 2021 suicide advocate of the year by the Trevor Project.
"Discrimination around sexuality and gender identity is still very real, and our community deserves to feel supported and totally free to be themselves. I often get messages from fans telling me about their struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, and it made me realize that this was something bigger than myself."
- Lil Nas X reflects on his duty as a LGBTQ+ poc artist to bring awareness to the mental hardships these communities face.
It’s important for everyone to be mindful of their mental states and seek out help when needed. Seeking out help could be a difficult thing to do for some; the best place to start is by looking for resources near you.
Reedley College offers students mental health services for those seeking help. You could schedule an appointment to meet on Zoom or in-person for a therapy session through the Reedley College website
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 800‑273‑8255 or text 838255.
The Trevor Project: call 1-866-488-7386 or visit their website
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): call 800-950-NAMI or text "NAMI" to 741741
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