Mental Health Awareness Month: an important occasion that everyone should like

May is the month is which we observe mental health awareness, an issue that has strong personal resonance with me.

I’ve had two instances in my life when I suffered from delusional thoughts. One occurred in 2004 when I had to make a decision about giving up my job and going to graduate school. The other happened in 2019 when I was dealing with my dad’s death.

They were serious. In 2004 I had wild thoughts about going broke and becoming homeless. In 2019 I wandered away from my home, looking for my dad. I couldn’t tell anyone what I was doing for fear that they’d think I was crazy.

I don’t need to go into personal detail. It’s enough for you to know that those thoughts were very real in my mind. I did not know where to turn.

My experience is similar to what’s happened to many individuals. It’s not simple. It’s very easy for things to get out of control even if you’ve had experience with mental illness.

I’ve experienced some stereotypes with my mental health. On more than one occasion someone has told me that my emotional problems are 90 percent nonsense. They have good intentions.

They just don’t know what it’s like. They have to take my word for it. Nobody who has experienced mental illness would ever wish it on themselves.

I have been in good mental health for almost five years. I need to remind myself that I have to do what’s best for my well-being. I have to stand back and take stock in everyday situations. It ensures a good perspective.

I should note that May is also Older Americans Month. I turned 57 in the past week. I’m definitely an older American.

People my age are at risk of mental health disorders. Some of us have physical health problems that affect us emotionally. It’s easy to feel isolated as an older person. Many times I go home in the early evening and have no one to talk with until the next day.

It’s important for everyone to realize that there’s nothing wrong with seeing a therapist or a life coach or both. There’s nothing wrong with talking. It helps. It’s good to talk about anything that’s bothersome, anything that stands in the way of feeling good about life.

I noticed a difference in 2021 when I had a hip replacement. I had a physical handicap during my recovery. It took time to navigate my way to therapy appointments and to other destinations.

I was amazed by how much people were willing to help me, how much they saw my limitations and stepped up to the plate. They opened doors and stood aside even when I didn’t need them to do it. I had to remind myself to accept their help, to thank them for going out of their way.

It’s different with mental health. It’s not as noticeable. In most respects a person with a mental health disorder has to go it alone. We have to know that people in everyday situations don’t perceive what we experience.

Mental Health Awareness Month is a good occasion to realize how a mental health disorder can happen to anyone. We have two choices when a relative or a friend experiences it. We can support them or we can turn our backs.

It’s my hope that people never turn their backs. We wouldn’t distance ourselves from a person with a heart condition or cancer. Likewise it’s wrong to shun a person who faces emotional issues.

I’m living proof that a person can recover from mental illness and lead a good life. It wouldn’t have happened 100 years ago. I would have been institutionalized, maybe indefinitely. We’ve come a long way. We should continue that progress one person at a time.

— Jim Muchlinski is a longtime reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent


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