Shining a Light on Mental Illness

POSTED December 22, 2020

According to, “(Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community)” and according to, mental illness is “(health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities)”. These two powerful words do not mean the same thing. But with dealing with mental health, it can likely lead to a mental illness if not treated in the right ways. So, let’s talk about the mental illness part of it. 

According to, many mental illnesses—between 50% and about 70%—show up before the age of 18. 

Many of us know what mental illnesses are but we have to realize that there is much more to the issue than surface knowledge. A mental illness is not just something you hear about or something that doesn’t matter. It’s something that may never go away in a person’s life and ignoring it and not reading the signs is not a step forward in overcoming it and acknowledging it. The word mental illness can be haunting, and it is;  but it’s not something to be ashamed of. Millions of people everyday struggle with a mental illness and we are likely to encounter someone with a mental illness and may not even realize it. A mental illness is developed through time and is mainly targeted in younger ages and slowly progresses into larger signs as someone gets older, but it can also be adapted throughout a person’s life at any time. It can be scary for some to go throughout their day and have to constantly fight these battles they are having with themselves. 

People with severe mental illness (SMI) are a vulnerable population ( With COVID-19, they have mainly been negatively affected by it. The many factors that contribute to this are the change in environment, change in services, as well as the increase in stress and isolation. Staying on top of their well-being is a priority and many are struggling with that. 

Mental illnesses can be eating disorders, depression, anxiety, ADHD, suicide, schizophrenia, biploar disorder, conduct disorder, and many others. 

Maybe you yourself have struggled or are struggling with one of these right now and you’re looking for ways to help yourself. Dealing with one or more mental illnesses is not an easy task, neither for yourself, the other person, or the ones around. But if you are feeling the need to get help or help someone, these tips are great ways to do so. 

Tips to help yourself deal with your mental illness(es) of any kind:

  • Seek therapy
  • Talk to someone you trust
  • Try breathing techniques
  • Try a new food
  • Find a new hobby
  • Exercise
  • Become aware of your emotions and act on them in a positive way
  • Acknowledge your triggers and find ways to avoid them
  • Find people who are willing to help and support you
  • Understand that your mental illness(es) do not define you
  • Hold yourself accountable to when you are going through an episode
  • Understand your setbacks and gain from that
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • Be open and honest with family and friends, so they can help as well
  • Create a list of things to do when these episodes occur and how to handle them


Tips of how to help others dealing with their mental illness(es):

  • Listen without making judgment
  • Be respectful and patient with what they have to say
  • Be aware of the person’s emotions when speaking
  • Ask what they need from you
  • Try not to bring up personal experiences
  • Stay focused on one topic at a time
  • Be relaxed and calm
  • If appropriate, ask why they feel this way or why they may think they have this disorder
  • Express that you care
  • Advise professional help
  • Talk about the persons episodes and reflect on them
  • Try breathing exercises
  • Create a list of things to do when these episodes occur and how to handle them


It may be hard to help someone who is struggling and not know what exactly to look for. Everyone is different on how they handle their situations but most of the time they will be doing things that are out of the ordinary. 


Question you can ask to recognize behavior changes:

  • Have you or someone else started using drugs and alcohol?
  • Have you or someone had changes in behavior or ways of thinking?
  • Has your anger grown and gotten worse?
  • Have you or someone started feeling guilty for eating or drinking and started to make disgusted comments and remarks towards your own body?
  • Has there been signs that the normal day to day things are not fun anymore? 
  • Have you noticed that you or someone are avoiding people or situations because you’re afraid?
  • Is there a lack of energy? Such as lack of eating or lack of sleeping?
  • Do you or someone feel rushed about everything, overreact about things and always have to be active in what you’re doing?
  • Have you or someone begun to feel reckless? Have you started to not care  about others or objects anymore?
  • Are there thoughts in your head that aren’t your own? Do you feel like you’re fighting something that isn’t really there?
  • Are you fast to anger?
  • Do you or someone you know feel like not eating and have felt that way for a while or maybe you can’t stop eating and consume so much that you can see changes in your body that you didn’t want?


However you may encounter this topic, do it with care and respect. Not everyone is going down an easy path whether that be the person right next to you or even yourself. Better understanding the signs of a mental illness is definitely a big step to unravel but worth it. 

“You are not your illness. You have an individual story to tell. You have a name, a history, a personality. Staying yourself is part of the battle.” — Julian Seifter

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 1-800-950-6264, [email protected]. NAMI operates an emergency mental health hotline Monday–Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. Operators can provide information about mental illness and refer callers to treatment, support groups, family support, and legal support, if needed ( 

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