#1 to understanding: It doesn’t fit in a box

Welcome to the MHA blog just for you.  The goal is to provide a safe space for our community to share their stories, connect with others, raise awareness and provide education that helps us all move toward a better mental wellness.  The blog is open for you to share and comment.  The MHA staff, board members and volunteers will also provide their own insight and share their passions too.

MHA has a long history, starting in 1956.  In 2018, I replaced long-time executive director Sue Brantley; she left some big shoes to fill.  Coming to MHA I brought many years of experience in non-profit, healthcare, management, strategic planning and all those other things that an executive director needs but I honestly only had a little experience in the mental health area of healthcare.  So I diligently started researching everything I could Google, and fortunately bent the ears of some awesomely smart healthcare co-workers with more knowledge on the subject than myself.

If you’d asked me to describe mental health before this I would have described those seeking regular treatments, medications, hospitalizations, etc.  But I found it is so much more than that.  Mental Illness doesn’t fit in a box.  It is so much bigger and confusing too.  Mental Illness has varying degrees just like any disease progression.  I read about stage 2, stage 4, and it started making more sense.  Mental Illness isn’t this taboo subject; it affects 1 in 5 people every year.  Yes, some might struggle with this illness for a lifetime, but there are a lot more who experience the symptoms of mental illness that are brought on by changes and situations in their lives.  Post partum depression is a fairly normal accepted stage we’ve most likely heard of, so why is it surprising to think about depression and anxiety from a tragic loss, a lifestyle change, a financial burden and other life things.  And for some that deal with illness for a lifetime they’ve learned how to cope, recognize triggers and manage their illness so well we wouldn’t even know.  I am continually impressed at the stories.

This opened my eyes and I kept coming to the phrase “I’m fine” and how often it is said as a lie to cover up actually talking about something that is bothering us.  Maybe we lie because we don’t want to discuss it, or think the person is just being nice and really doesn’t want to know the truth, or even afraid the truth may make me appear weak and whiny.  But the fact is we need to recognize the phrase as a cry for help.  A smile, a hug, and saying, “tell me the truth,” are simple ways we can reach out.  I keep reminding myself that I never know what someone else might be going through.

At MHA our goal is to support, educate and advocate for better mental health.  Join me on this journey.  Share your knowledge with us.  What you have to say just might be the words someone else needs to hear.

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