From the editor: Mental illness merits care, not shame |

From the editor: Mental illness merits care, not shame

Craig Press to host The Longevity Project event to discuss, educate

Cuyler Meade, editor, Craig Press
Craig Press

I have a mental illness.

And if you’re reading this, statistics say chances are one in four that you do, too.

If not you, look around. A quarter, on average, of the folks you see, interact with, work with, and love are dealing with a mental illness.

For me, it’s depression. I’m medicated for it, and most of the last several years I’ve handled it pretty comfortably. Still, sometimes, I feel worthless. Sometimes, I feel helpless. Sometimes, I feel like the world would be better off without me. But, thankfully, usually, that’s not the case these days. Much more often I believe others when they tell me I am good; I believe God when He tells me He loves me; and I believe myself that everybody, even me, deserves grace, patience and time to grow. Sometimes I even see myself and think, yes, that is good. But the truth is, sometimes, it just doesn’t work like that.

Mental illness is all around us. If it hasn’t impacted us directly yet, there’s little doubt it one day will, whether through our own brains or through that of someone close to us. It’s not hard to understand why. The human brain is such a miraculously delicate network of chemicals and electrical impulses that it’s hardly surprising that, like with any other organ in the human body, from time to time something goes awry.

Ignorance and lack of understanding of the brain and what ails it over the generations — the overwhelming majority of human history — have led to stigma and shame surrounding mental illness in our society. It’s really unfortunate, but even for me, I’m only a few years into being willing to say out loud that I suffer from this chronic illness. I was embarrassed. I felt weak. I felt broken. On some level, I still feel that way.

But I’ve made the decision — and hold your applause, please — to ignore those instincts and to speak up. It’s important. I wouldn’t judge someone else because they suffer from, say, cancer or diabetes or epilepsy. I wouldn’t think less of someone else because they suffer from post-traumatic stress, or anxiety or addiction, either. So why should I assume judgment from others so much that I hide my own experience, surely to the detriment of a cause about which I’m deeply passionate — that of ending the very stigma that’s causing me this undue shame.

So here I am to say that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Here I am to say that I am not ashamed to have a mental illness. And, if you suffer, neither should you be.

It’s way more common than we realize, and even if it were rare, it would still be no reason for embarrassment. It’s not evidence of weakness or of insufficiency. It’s evidence of biology. It’s evidence of humanity. And it’s eminently OK.

It’s chemicals and electrical signals. It’s tissue and trauma. It’s life — the same life we’re all living.

Over the next four weeks, the Craig Press will examine mental illness in our region through a handful of angles. We’ll talk about resources for care — and perhaps the reality that is the limited nature thereof — for those who need help with their mental illness. We’ll talk about suicide — how to spot signs in yourself in others of ideations, how to react, and how to seek help. We’ll talk about the impact of the changes in our regional economy and what exists to help men and women cope when faced with a potential dramatic mid-career left turn. We’ll talk about those for whom mental illness contributes to trouble with the legal system and what resources might exist to break that tragic cycle.

All of this is leading into a Craig Press event that we’re putting on in conjunction with the other newspapers in our region. It’s called The Longevity Project, and we’ll be joining those other papers for the first time after a number of years of its existence to host a unique in-person forum addressing mental health.

A keynote speaker, Kevin Hines, will present on his experience attempting and surviving suicide. He’ll highlight a panel of experts who will speak to these issues and will answer questions about resources, interventions, options and, in a word, help.

We’d love to have you join us.

The event is Wednesday, September 22, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets will cost $10. Lunch will be served. You’ll learn something, hopefully you’ll feel something, and surely you’ll go out understanding yourself and those in your life a little better.

In the meantime, let’s work together. Let’s all look inward, examine the facts, love harder and, if we need it, get help. We deserve it.

Let’s end the stigma. Let’s care for ourselves and one another. Let’s get better.

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