In the local grocery store the other day was a delightful young man at the check out packing my bags. He had a huge smile, and his eyes shone with excitement as he spoke to me about what a wonderful day it was, and if he was placing my bags in the proper place in my cart. His attention to his work was admirable. It was as if packing my groceries was the highlight of his day – his life’s mission.
Living just down the street, my mother continues to recover from a serious fall. With the snow and ice, going outside is not only painful, but it is frightening. Despite the inactivity now prominent in her life, most days, she manages to keep her spirits high. Unfortunately, a new friend tells me her mother does not feel able to do the same. Having undergone major surgery this past fall, the woman is now filled with anger.
Whether it is snowing, raining, or the sun is blissfully shining, a man about my age walks past my house each day. Quick to give a smile, nod, or cheerful hello, he has become a happy fixture in my community.
Around the same time as I had my embolism, another prominent member of the community was diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Having undergoing a high-risk surgical procedure, she is here with us today. Sadly, her once happy demeanor has been replaced with mistrust and resentment.
A community over, a tall, handsome man with a beautiful new bride is well positioned in his professional career. To all who observe him, he has the world by the tail. If only they knew…
One form of mental illness or another touches each one of our lives every single day. You pass it in the street, you see it in our schools and offices, and you my friend, have probably even suffered from it. I know it did.
Hospitalization, isolation, chronic pain, prescription drugs, bad relationships, and emotional breakdown are all contributors to mental illness. If you have ever felt confused, depressed, completely exhausted, or utterly frustrated, you have an understanding. So, if you are wondering what all of these people have in common, today is Let’s Talk Day, a day devoted to drawing awareness to mental health in our society. The young man at the check-out clearly had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Often we look at someone with this condition and think to ourselves, ‘poor guy.’ Quite frankly, he appeared pretty happy to me.
My mother could have easily fallen into the same trap of depression my friend’s mother is currently struggling to escape. Understanding the power of the mind, she kept hers active by reading, playing computer games when reading became too difficult, and forcing herself little by little out of her house.
The man who walks my street was a promising college bound student when a night of partying took the boy he was and turned him into the man he is now. Not fully understanding the extent of his injury, I am cautious when my children are around. “He’s a very nice man, I tell them. My advise is to show him respect and return his smile, all the while understanding that they must keep their distance. Sometimes understanding the reality of our society is an unfortunate necessity.
The surgery helped to heal the woman’s brain, thus keeping her alive, but it could not cure her crumbling state of mind. Today she and her very supportive family live openly with mental illness. The handsome man with the world spread out in front of him struggles everyday just to keep it together. Sadly, he keeps his condition hidden, well, as best he can. Wouldn’t it be nice, wouldn’t he heal much quicker, if all who knew him understood his state of mind, and were willing to lend a hand any way they could?
A few easy ways you can help mental illness is by visiting somebody who has recently been diagnosed with a condition. Whether the condition is physical, mental, or somewhere in between, those in pain need our support. Take an elderly neighbor out to coffee each week. An hour of your time may make all the difference in that person’s lifetime.
We all offer a cure for mental illness when we offer our compassion.