Don’t Forget: Mental Health Awareness Month

A Case of Telephone:

Think about it, we (as humans) are complex.  We have built, programmed, and learned machines that help us search the web, play and learn games, store personal information, communicate with loved ones/friends via text and voice, and control household objects at the tip of our fingers.  A “simple” smart phone is actually very aptly named – you are quite smart if you have mastered the ability to perform many of it’s functions.

With this ease and ability to multi-task/have an all-in-one device, we have also deleted information that we would have otherwise needed to remember.  While it may seem small and insignificant on its own, this prolonged exposure to multi-tasking has actually reverse programmed us.  no longer do we have to remember passwords, we either check “remember me” or right it down as a digital note.  Personal interaction?  Well, we prefer more acquaintances that are easily managed on Facebook or LinkedIn, rather than actually see these “friends”.

While my remarks could eventually go down a path of social enlightenment and give a commentary on technology and changing “worlds”, I am choosing to go down a different path…

Pop quiz: What is your mother’s phone number?  (Keep that answer in your head.)

For many of us, we cannot remember our mother’s phone number.  Others can remember, but eventually as we move down the list of loved ones, we’d come to a number that stumps us.  Sure, 100 years ago we didn’t have to remember phone numbers, since they didn’t exist, but 20 years ago we actually had the ability to hold numerous seven-digit (or ten with area code) codes that represented instant communication with those closest to us.

Heck, I bet that we even rely on our phones/computers for other personal info like email addresses and mailing addresses rather than keep valuable head-space devoted to simple memorization.

So what does this have to do with the title of this blog post?  Isn’t this supposed to be about how May is the month dedicated to Mental Health Awareness?  Yes.

The point is this: We all forget.

We all forget things – whether they are simple, little things or information that is something others deem we “should know.”  If you are human, you have forgotten.  Our brains have so much to stimulate them and each one works in a slightly different way, since we are all motivated and stimulated by different things.

I have forgotten.  I did not forget to write a blog post about “Mental Health Awareness”, that is not the slip up that I am alluding to in this post (I just needed the right motivation and topic).  Nor am I devoting a post to the simple things that I have forgotten lately – taking out the trash, calling someone back, a password to something at work, etc.  Nope.  I have forgotten (at times) about the very affliction that ties me to the very subject I am writing about.

I have forgotten that which has had me suffering some of my worst days/nights in my life.  I have forgotten something that has once made me think I was dying, something that made me walk home from 6+ miles away, something that others have truly lost themselves to.  Some days I have forgotten that I am someone touched by mental illness.

While this is a great weight off my back and allows me to feel “normal” again, it also makes the next episode that much worse, that much more unbearable.  Many people feel like mental illness is something that can be cured – if you are depressed, anxious, or addicted you can eventually break free from that pain.  Well, yes and no.  Things can get better and some may never deal with the intense struggles the same way again, but that does not mean they have been cured.

In the same way that we have “learned to forget” our mother’s telephone numbers, we have also learned to forget our problems, our feelings, our mental health.  Reflecting back on this space dedicated to these “weird feelings” seems counter-productive; giving time to feelings doesn;t solve anything, why not do something I enjoy instead?

The more we forget/repress those feelings, those warning signs, those signs of proper/improper mental health, the harder it is to hold on to our health in general.  Whether it is Anxiety, Depression, or Addiction, mental health has a DIRECT impact on physical health, and vice versa.

The best example of the intertwinement of physical and mental health  is a concussion:

If you become concussed, you have a physical pain – headache, light sensitivity, general weakness, damage to the brain itself, etc.  At the same time you also have mental “pain” or mental health repercussions – memory loss, change in behavior, and susceptibility to depression/anxiety.

Often times this injury, whether it is mental or physical can trigger waves or future injury and set off a chain of long lasting effects.  A concussion that leads to depression and anxiety can then lead to panic attacks.  Those panic attacks can lead to increased heart rates and eventual heart problems.  Those heart issues can lead to increased anxiety levels again, which then snowballs and collapses on itself.

See where I am going?

The moral of the story: Please do your best not to forget.

Forgetting is human, but so is supporting one another.  We need a month like May and the reminder of “Mental Health Awareness Month” to either give us the push/reminder we need or to be a supportive person for someone around us that may need help of their own.

You aren’t in this alone, we’re in this together.


 

Resources:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may

http://www.nami.org/

http://www.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Faith/FaithNet_Newsletter/Silent_No_More_Mental_Health_Month.htm

http://www.mentalhealth.gov/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_health

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