7 Things To Remember about Mental Health

MAY. 27, 2015

By Sandy Smith

Although we all experience and interpret life in different ways there are a few universal truths for those living with a mental health condition. These are just a few examples of simple mental health realities everyone should know.

Mental Health Conditions Are Real

Mental illnesses are just as real and valid as physical illnesses. Whether there are malfunctions in the brain or in the body, people need proper diagnosis and treatment. Many early deaths are also attributed to mental illness in the form of suicide.

It’s Not a Personal Weakness

Scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an organization devoted to research, prevention, and treatment of mental illness, have determined that mental illnesses are dysfunctions of the brain. 

We know that the brain is the organ that controls the processes and systems in our bodies. Malfunction of the brain can affect one’s thinking skills and intelligence, emotions, feelings, and relationship skills.

Not everything is known about the human brain but, the causes for mental illness are thought to be genes and environment. Causes are not some fault, weakness, lack of willpower, or character flaw of the individual.

Everyone is Different

Each case is unique, as all individuals are unique. Even among people with the same diagnosis, every person will experience it differently. Not every person will exhibit all the common symptoms of their particular disorder. And what symptoms they do experience may vary in intensity and severity. Each person will be affected in a different way because of their own unique nature and personality.

You Can Help Your Family Member or Friend

If one of your loved ones lives with a mental health disorder it is critical for their recovery that you give them compassion, respect, understanding, encouragement, and support. Be careful not to pressure or force your loved ones to do things. You can't tell other people how to think or feel just like you can't say when a person  is ready to work.

With the right support, treatment, and healing, people with mental illness will know when they are ready to do something, including work. They are not just being lazy. And some people never recover from mental illness; others only partially recover. To provide support you may need to equip yourself with education and knowledge.

You Can Fight Stigma

You can’t control what other people think, say, and do, but you do have control over yourself. Even if you don’t know someone who lives with mental illness, you can do your part to help by spreading the truth, reducing stigma and increasing public awareness about this serious health problem. Please support these efforts just as you would for breast cancer or any other physical disease.

You Are Not Alone

I know that all I have said is true because I have first-hand knowledge and experience. I am a person who lived for many years with severe symptoms of serious mental illness. Many people live happy, healthy and productive lives despite a mental health condition. 

There is a Lot of Information and Resources

For more information about mental health research, visit National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). To learn about the prevalence and impact of mental illness, read the Director’s Blog, “Mental Health Awareness Month: By The Numbers”.

Information and opportunities to get involved can also be found right here on NAMI's website. You can learn. You can find out how to support yourself or a loved one. Or you can see how to get involved and make a difference in your community.


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JUL, 03, 2015 04:00:57 AM
Sandy Smith
Thanks to all of you who expressed your thoughts and feelings in response to my article. I am grateful for all of them, and I would like to respond to some of your comments. My intention is to do that to the best of my ability. I pray I will be able to do so in a timely manner. May God bless all of you and your loved ones with healing and recovery as He did for me. I am now "called" to help people who struggle with mental illness, as I did for many years, in whatever way I can manage to do so. It is a dream and a mission I have, which is just beginning. I ask for your prayers for me to be successful with my efforts.

JUL, 03, 2015 03:34:12 AM
Sandy Smith
Clara, thank you so much for your response to my article. I don't know how to reach you in order to respond to your request, but I am interested. If you know how I can contact you, please let me know.

JUN, 30, 2015 11:43:28 PM
I am happy to say I am a survivor. How close I was to not being here for my family. Now I am blessed to care for them and to work with school children. When I struggle I pray to Jesus for help. I offer thanksgiving to God for each day. On bad days I lower my expectations and feel blessed to be alive and know better days will come. Suffering with this has helped me support others who need help. We all need each other and we need the love of Jesus in our lives. He is our true physician, redeemer and savior. May you feel his presence today. Julie

JUN, 29, 2015 05:39:49 PM
Kathrine, your post hit home. Everything you said applies to me!! I know the mental prison to well. I hope we can find some help. I am praying!!

JUN, 27, 2015 07:10:53 AM
This sums up so well what I have known all along. As both someone with a mental illness and a nurse who was privilaged to work with the Mentally Ill I have come to believe in these truths as well but have not heard these said as clearly.

Thanks so much. Please get in touch with me if possible. I have a request to make about this article.

JUN, 25, 2015 10:10:24 PM
Daylene julian
I have bi polar disorder and am trying to live a productive life. I've recently started working again and it's a struggle trying to remember everything. I wish I I could say I had family to support me but I don't they don't want any drama in their lives and it's hard not having their support. By the grace of God he helps me as much as he can but it's lonely. Some people don't understand bipolar disorder so I don't tell too many people I keep it to myself . All I can do is keep taking my medication and take one day at a time.

JUN, 25, 2015 02:01:33 PM
Will B.
Great summary, Sandy! It was inspiring to read, and I hope to help others who are on the road to recovery from a mental illness.

JUN, 25, 2015 01:40:24 PM
Linda Dunnam
I have lived with mental illness for a long time. It comes and goes over a period of many years. There is such a stigma with it and I have no friends because of it. They think I am a danger to them and I am more a danger to myself. I am, however, grateful for my husband and my pets. Thanks for a an informative article.

JUN, 25, 2015 09:15:07 AM
Adrienne Kawamura
I found this very helpful as dealing with my sister's mental illness is a struggle. I do sometimes think she is lazy, or has no discipline, am quick to judge her every weakness. I know it is wrong but get so frustrated at times.

JUN, 24, 2015 10:54:15 PM
Dawn Herrera
Well written article. Thank you.

JUN, 24, 2015 09:47:13 PM
Cheryl Winfield
Sandy, this is a relief, but there are family that do force you into doing things, or tell you that you are lazy & what others did didn't hurt you ever though you said they did. When you have to financially rely on an individual that is one of the causes of you depression, including her entire side of the family & my sister's family, what do you have to straighten them out to prevent (hopefully) from someone from getting worse? You can do all the education there is on your illness, but when family & other people never change for the better-what are other recourses does one need, getting a lawyer to protect yourself from others?

JUN, 24, 2015 08:45:29 PM
Judy Balunda
I had ECT 2 years ago. I started crying one day and couldn't stop. I no longer cry, but the helplessness seems to never go away. The stigma breaks my heart. I have survived colon cancer, and would choose cancer any day over depression.

JUN, 24, 2015 08:20:18 PM
Patricia HH
Yes, so true - but HOW do we get the rest of society to also understand these truths? My bipolar husband left me with 7 kids in the middle of a manic period. I live with my kids and see day in and day out the struggles they seem to have with their own minds. Yet I still have to remind myself of the biological foundation to much of this. Trying to get my extended family to similarly understand? Not sure that's really possible.

JUN, 21, 2015 11:29:29 AM
My father's parents were mentally and emotionally dis functional and so was my father. Not much you can do about your inherited problems. Just remember it's not your fault.

JUN, 17, 2015 01:06:46 PM
Candice Swick
Sandy, this is so well written and informative. As you've stated, mental illness is not a weakness and it shouldn't be regarded as such. I have lived with mental illness for half of my life. Some years are more of a struggle than others. One thing I am exceptionally grateful for is my supportive and loving family and friends, who have always shown me love and respect. This includes you. Thank you for always being there for me.

JUN, 14, 2015 03:57:30 AM
Mary Smith
What a good read. I plan on sharing this with a select few who could benefit from it. Thank you, for putting into words, that which I cannot.

JUN, 06, 2015 01:54:40 PM
This article really helped me and I'm going to try to receive treatment. Thank you.

JUN, 01, 2015 01:02:30 AM
S. D'Souza
Nice article!

MAY, 31, 2015 08:56:45 AM
Bob Kistler
I am a friend to the author and I am very proud of her for her strength and courage in managing her health. She is a shining example that people with mental health conditions can lead a productive and happy life as evidenced by this article. It is well written and can be used as a wonderful tool to help others. Congratulation Sandy...I am proud of you!

MAY, 30, 2015 05:22:16 PM
Bonnie F.
My dauughter recently passed from Suicide due to metal illness. I knew she had an illness but had no idea how severe she was suffering. I am lost without her and people need to know how severe this illness is and how many are suffering.

MAY, 30, 2015 02:56:13 PM
Maria Lakis
Great post! As a mental health provider, I can say Sandy really highlighted some of the most important issues for those who have a mental health condition, and their family and friends. It's so clear and to the point, I'd love to see this made into a flyer that could be distributed and published. Well done!

MAY, 30, 2015 12:44:51 AM
kimberly cesario
looking forward to learning more about mental illness from the blog.

MAY, 29, 2015 10:09:57 PM
I have been suffering from mental illness most of my life and this past 3 years have been torture inside my head and feels like I will never see light again. I am trying so hard to feel capable and just get back to self sufficiency but I just am too overwhelmed with just trying to survive each day and care for my kids. I am out of resources and just want to feel like someone hears me and can offer some suggestions to help me. I want to check myself into the hospital but am terrified of being let down and feeling more empty and alone. I really never thought I could get this low, this hopeless and afraid that my ship is sinking and there is no lifeboat to come rescue me. I love my children more than anything in the whole world and I just want to be able to provide for them and not end up homeless and them be taken away from me.

MAY, 29, 2015 07:45:28 PM
Lucy Marker
Thank you.

MAY, 29, 2015 07:25:38 PM
Bill Schemers
Sandy, I have dealt with mental illness for fifty years and what you say is true. Everyone is a little unique in their illness and we need to accommodate a lot of differences. Recovery looks different for each person and can only be measured by the individual. It takes courage and perseverance.

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