May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and many are using the time to help end the stigma and educate others about mental illness.
Dallas County’s Metrocare, the largest mental health care provider in North Texas, sees an average of 2,500 people a day or 60,000 a year. The organization has been pushing out messages on its social media all month to help add to the voices standing in solidarity with the mentally ill.
There are several stigmas that surround mental illness that sometimes makes it hard to for people to express their struggle.
“I think the greatest stigma is that it’s a weakness and not an illness,” said John Burruss, Metrocare CEO and psychiatrist.
Some people believe the mentally ill are dangerous or they are incapable of doing anything.
To fight these stigmas, Burruss said it's important to keep talking about mental health to help normalize it.
“If more people were comfortable in opening up about that (mental health) then it would invite others into the mix,” he said.
It can also be helpful to gain knowledge about mental illness including the different types such as depression and anxiety, Burruss said.
Those who have friends or family who struggle with mental illness are encouraged to not dismiss it. Burruss said finding out how a person is feeling and how those feelings are affecting him or her is a good way to show support.
With the rate of suicide on the rise, it may be necessary to ask if a person has had thoughts of ending his or her life, he said.
Perhaps the most important message is that there is help for those who struggle with mental illness. Waiting to get help, however, will do more harm to than good.
“The longer you let a mental health issue go, the harder it is to treat it,” he said.
Thinking the symptoms will pass or the struggle is not so bad are just a few of the reasons people wait to get treated. But waiting allows those symptoms to be deeply seated in the brain, Burruss said.
Whether therapy or medication is needed, Metrocare and others are telling the community that they can live a normal life.
“We have a fighting chance with every mental illness, Burruss said.