The Hidden Face of Mental Illness
She might be the woman seated at the next table at Hall’s. He may be the man in the corner cubicle at work that no one seems to know very well due to his solitary nature. Or he might be the student in class who cannot seem to concentrate. These are some of the many hidden faces of mental illness.
They are people who are trying to manage their day-to-day lives while secretly battling minds that seem to work against them. While on the surface they may appear no different, internally they struggle just to get through the day. Mental illness has no outwardly visible signs. It is an invisible illness. A misunderstood health condition that affects one in five adults, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI).
Mental illness covers a broad range of disorders including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, eating disorders, and PTSD. Sometimes it can be a single diagnosis such as depression, but other times it strikes with a plethora of difficult-to-remember diagnoses. Whatever form it takes, mental illness usually goes hand-in-hand with loneliness, isolation and fear, in part due to the stigma associated with it.
And it is not merely the person living with mental health who is affected, but family and friends are impacted as well. Oftentimes when a person is diagnosed or tells others about their condition, their supposed friends and even family will occasionally abandon or turn away from them.
People rarely take time to ask questions and understand what other people are going through. It may be difficult to know how to begin a conversation about someone’s mental health; but this is where groups like NAMI offer assistance.
Aside from social support, another issue for families coping with mental illness is finding the proper treatment and resources. Mental illness is not curable; it requires continual care and treatment is expensive.
Fort Wayne has a number of agencies working on behalf of children with mental conditions, bringing resources such as Parkview Behavioral Health, the Bowen Center, social services, churches and many more together in the Our Children Our Future group.
More than 60 agencies regularly attend meetings to seek out ways to help people with mental illness. Sponsoring social events has been its main focus, as socialization is one of the most difficult aspects of living with mental illness. Another focus for this group is its efforts to create an access center for the community to be able to use to find resources, referrals and needs assessments.
NAMI is also finding ways to bring about change in the community. FaithNet is a collaboration of people reaching out to local churches encouraging outreach to those with mental conditions and their families and providing education on how to help while also meeting their spiritual needs. NAMI is a non-religious organization and serves to assist anyone with mental health issues. It also works with caregivers as it is important that they find the proper resources and have a good support system, along with professional help, both for themselves and their family members.
Communication is the key to ending the social stigma around mental illness. There is no blame to be had for mental illness and even something as simple as a phone call can provide support during tough times. We all have individual struggles. Sometimes a happy face is nothing more than a hiding place for someone with mental illness. No one wants to face such extreme difficulties alone. While it may not be possible to completely understand what a person is going through, compassion is always the right approach. Acceptance can make a world of difference to a person in need or a family in crisis.