A student recently said she was triggered by a fifteen-point quiz she took. She became depressed because she felt she wasn't as prepared for the test as she would have liked to have been. It wasn't even the test that threw her into a depression slump. She knew the test was just the "last straw" in a long line of big things she was not consciously aware of. But she didn't feel like she could tell anyone about how depressed she felt because the only reason she could give was that "stupid little quiz."
A veteran recently paid for his groceries at a machine in the store. The person behind him came up close and he felt his personal space was invaded triggering his PTSD symptoms. He asked nicely if the person would back up and give him more space. After the person refused, he explained his PTSD symptoms were triggered by being crowded and asked again if the person would move. The person refused and became belligerent.
We live in a world where 2.8 of every 10 adults are diagnosed with mental illness. More go undiagnosed because of the social stigma attached to seeking help and being labeled as mentally ill. Yet we know that mental illness is often caused by traumatic events (not the fault of the person) like domestic abuse, rape, war, and even automobile accidents. These people are not weak, they are having normal reactions to abnormal events. We also know that these traumatic events cause the brain chemistry of these individuals to become imbalanced. Others are born with chemical imbalances in the brain that cause them to have psychiatric disorders. Mental illness has very real physical or medical aspects, which is why a psychiatrist will normally prescribe medication to correct chemical imbalances.
Mental illness is life-threatening. According to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, "In 2011 (the most recent year for which data are available), 39,518 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans...." The data also show suicide numbers are growing at a higher rate in the 45 to 64 age group.
The recent suicide of beloved comedian and actor Robin Williams has highlighted this life-threatening potential of mental illness.
It's important that we, as a society, work to change the stigma of mental illness so that more people will be able to talk about their struggles without being negatively impacted. When mental illness is understood, more people will get the help they need without fearing loss of jobs and other social punishment. Hopefully, education will cause others to be more understanding and accommodating, as they would be if they saw someone in a cast or wheel chair.
One place to go to begin to educate yourself is the non-profit organization Bring Change 2 Mind.