Research and numbers are important and all, but they take out one major piece of the puzzle for understanding mental illness: the human. We never asked to be a statistic, so don’t remove us from the education and conversation. To best understand mental illness, especially beyond the statistics, is to understanding the human side of it.
There are so many novels and stories and poems about mental health and mental illness, and so many that are subtle about the topic so it may not be obvious that the focus is so much on mental health. I find those stories to be the most clear in depicting these issues that make it relatable to non-sufferers, because sometimes saying straight out that the characters has ______ makes them easier to alienate them. YA books do this well, and my particular favorites that subtly bring up these topics are Perks of Being a Wallflower and Looking for Alaska. But there are soooo many more out there, it just takes a little looking.
Listen to Stories
Not every sufferer of mental illness is willing to share their stories like I do, and it’s completely fine if they don’t. But if they are willing to talk about it, listen to them. Hear what they have to say because I guarantee they won’t talk about numbers and stats, but feelings and situations. It makes these issues more like reality, and not just a piece of confusing medical jargon.
This seems completely counter-intuitive to stats free understanding, but many people do discuss mental health and illness scientifically and qualitatively. It’s not all graphs, charts, and numbers if you look hard enough. And many people, like myself, will write their stories and put them online. I’ve done this with the Huffington Post, The Mighty is a great source for this as well.
Know any great mental health resources? Share them in the comments below!