Can you really identify someone suffering from a mental illness?
What do they look like?
How would you even know?
What crosses your mind when you think about someone dealing with a mental illness?
Is there anyone in your family who has suffered or who currently suffers from a mental illness?
Better question is, do you even know whether you’re personally dealing with a mental illness?
So many times, we hear stories about people who have had a mental illness episode. Many of those stories involve a visible incident that capture’s our attention, such as suicide.
It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how popular you are, how old you are, what your social status is, or how gorgeous/handsome you look, mental illness can impact every one of us.
Take a few famous people for example.
Last May, famous tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open as the #2 player in the world, at the ripe age of 23, to effectively deal with her mental illness struggles, namely her challenges with depression and social anxiety.
Osaka was publicly slammed for withdrawing from the Grand Slam tournament, after doing what she felt was best for her overall mental health, while also using the situation as an opportunity to shine the light on the issue of mental illness.
After making the decision, Osaka took to Instagram at the time to address her fans and share her sincere thoughts on her decision to withdraw and speak about her mental state. She said:
“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”
Osaka realized that this was an ongoing issue and acknowledged her difficulty dealing with her mental illness. So many people in the tennis world and various media outlets were outraged at her decision and selfishly wanted her to continue with business as usual, but Osaka did what she felt was right for her. She also wanted to connect with others who were going through the same things she was going through. As a result of her coming forth with her mental health challenges, she was able to get help, and help those who had similar mental health struggles.
As her words so distinctly stated when it came to dealing with her mental issues relative to depression and anxiety, Osaka said she “had a really hard time coping with that.”
The bottom line is, Osaka looked within herself and personally recognized her struggles with depression and anxiety couldn’t be ignored, so she sought help to address it.
During the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games (held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic), Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, who is arguably the greatest gymnast of all time, made the decision to withdraw from the individual all-around competition because of anxiety issues she was experiencing while performing her most dominant gymnastic routine.
Something wasn’t right within, and Biles knew it immediately.
Like Osaka, many individuals and media outlets blasted Biles for choosing to acknowledge her mental health challenges in real time. They selfishly wanted her to keep performing, despite her declared struggles with her mental health.
In an interview with Glamour magazine in June of last year, Biles talked about her initial reluctance to go and speak to a therapist about her mental health challenges, mainly because of the perception and stigma surrounding mental illness, stating:
“One of the very first sessions, I didn’t talk at all. I just wouldn’t say anything. I was like, ‘I’m not crazy. I don’t need to be here.’”
Biles went on to state how her therapist helped her process her feelings and deal with her anxiety. Now, she is a major advocate for others who could benefit from receiving mental health assistance from a therapist or other resources.
Very few people would argue against Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry being one of the most beautiful and talented actresses to ever grace movie and television screens. But as beautiful and talented as she is, did you know that she not only dealt with mental illness, but once tried to take her own life because of a mental illness episode?
In a 2007 Parade magazine interview, Berry told the magazine that she became so depressed after her public breakup and failed marriage of nearly five years with former professional Major League Baseball star David Justice that she literally tried to commit suicide from the carbon monoxide fumes she had running from her car. She felt taking her life would help rid herself of the emotional and mental anguish she was experiencing.
Her words were telling, but indicative of what many of us deal with personally internally when faced with serious challenges. Relative to her emotional and mental state, Berry stated:
“My sense of worth was so low. I had to reprogram myself to see the good in me.”
Berry admitted to the magazine that a vision of her mother finding her dead body in her vehicle after having committed suicide came to her, which prevented her from carrying out the act of suicide. Berry later sought counseling and therapy and credits those things with helping her take control of her life and dealing with the many emotional and mental challenges she faced.
How many people may have received a vision like the one Berry had, yet still carried out the act of suicide, or never sought help before making that permanent decision?
There are so many more stories that can be shared about people we know in the public realm, but what about the people we personally know who are members of our families, our friends, our co-workers, our colleagues, and more importantly, what about you?
Do you struggle with depression, anxiety, hopelessness, bipolar disorder, anger issues, mood swings, social withdrawal, lack of drive and initiative, excessive fear, constant nervousness, disconnect from the real world, erratic behavior, or thoughts of suicide?
Have you ever taken the time to do self-introspection so that you can be aware of your own feelings, behaviors, and emotions?
Don’t ignore the signs. Get help today. Many people have health insurance and don’t even realize that mental health services are covered as part of their health insurance plans. Call your health insurance provider today to make sure you are covered for mental health services and utilize that important component of your plan today.
As we have stated, the Forward Times has dedicated the month of May to highlighting the importance of mental health as part of Mental Health Awareness Month.
If you or someone you know needs mental health information, resources, or advice, please contact either of the following agencies:
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Now is the time to look within and seek the help of others as you deal with any mental health challenges you may be experiencing. The time is now!