Happy May! I just want to say that I am very proud of you. Why? Because you are still here with us.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and this topic is very near and dear to my heart. So many people, myself included, suffer with mental health problems that affect not only their mental well-being, but their physical and emotional being, too. Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed every May in the United States since 1949 and was started by the Mental Health America organization. This month is observed in a multitude of ways-social media, movies, events for example. However, there’s one particular way in which we hardly observe mental health, and that’s talking about real life experiences.
I can sit here and write 500+ words on the topic of mental health by giving you statistics or descriptive definitions of mental health disorders, but I won’t. In fact, fellow Pleasanton Express columnist, Glenda Thompson, wrote an amazing, informative A-Z column series on mental health disorders last year that you can read on our website at www.pleasantonexpress.com.
I’m a firm believer that no one will ever truly understand mental health unless we start talking about our own mental health issues. It’s time to start accepting it, being okay with talking about it and stop downplaying it.
I struggle with anxiety and depression every single day. Some days are worse than others … I call those my “Becky Days.” Others are harder to come back from. My depression stems from the grief I experienced after I lost the only grandpa I ever knew in August 2010. He was my rock, my encourager, the glue that held me, and my family, together. When he passed, my life did a complete 360-degree turn and flipped upside down. Yes … I do mean 360-degree turn. I lost my way. I contemplated suicide many times, but never had the guts to do it … thankfully. Then I gave my life to Jesus that following March. The relief I felt knowing there is a God who loves and holds me in the good and bad times is indescribable. I am much better, but not cured. I still suffer from depression to this day and my anxiety is a vivid result of that. For many years, my family never understood it. I never understood it. Probably because mental health was associated with being sick, put on medication and locked away in a mental institute. No one wanted to talk about it.
I am happy to say that we are now breaking that stigma, together. We are accepting it more in our society and that is a huge breakthrough. But I want more.
If you are a relative or friend to someone who is struggling with mental health, don’t downplay it. Ask questions. That might be all it takes to get that person one step closer to getting help. Sometimes, all we need is a hug or a person to just listen to us. We don’t always need medication and counseling, though I have no objection to either. If you are suffering from a mental health disorder, I highly encourage you talk to someone: a trusted friend, a family member, a colleague or even a professional expert. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Together, we will get better.
REBECCA PESQUEDA is the News Editor of the Pleasanton Express. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.