In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, let’s have a discussion on the word ‘crazy.’ What does it mean to be crazy? How do we classify others as crazy? One thing that I’ve noticed is that people are quick to throw around the word ‘crazy’ when you don’t subscribe to their version of how you should live your life.
The definition of crazy is mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way. It is a word attributed to animals and those that we deem below us. It is also a word used to stigmatize people who suffer from mental illness. When we describe someone as crazy, do we really know what we are saying?
The majority of stereotypes about people with mental illness stem from television. How many times have we seen the ‘out of control schizophrenic’ or the ‘depressed mass killer’ narrative on television shows and in movies? Too many times to count. Whether you agree with it or not, our society is heavily influenced by what we see in television and movies. If a movie says that a personality type that is different than ours exhibits a certain type of behavior, we take it as fact, with no questions asked. This is dangerous.
The media paints people that suffer from mental illness as unpredictable. The idea of someone being unpredictable is how the word crazy comes into play. People think that someone with mental health issues can ‘fly off the handle’ at any moment. This isn’t even close to being true. There are roughly 600 murders per year from someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are roughly 5 killings per year from someone with a mental illness. There’s a far better chance of someone at your local bar/club murdering you than someone with depression. In actuality, people with mental health issues are 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crimes.
Ideas such as these make life harder for people with mental health issues. It creates panic, and in most cases causes people to keep their issues a secret out of fear of retaliation. According to the American Psychological Association, there are 76 million Americans who live with the fear that others may find out about their disorder and think less of them or even keep them from getting jobs or promotions. They often avoid treatment due to the all-too-reasonable worry they’ll be found out and discriminated against. Imagine living in a world where if someone found out your mental health diagnosis, you would be fired, evicted and shunned from society?
What’s dangerous about stigma is that it creates fear. It’s the leading cause of why people don’t pursue therapy or treatment, even when studies show a success rate up to 80%. It’s the reason why people feel free and empowered to discriminate against those suffering. It’s the reason why ill-informed Christians refuse to learn about it and either blame it on the devil or claim that the person was ‘weak’ to begin with.
What if instead of infantilizing someone struggling with their mental health, we formed a support group for them? What if we stopped gossiping and started praying? What if we checked in on them instead of avoiding them? What if we listened to them instead of controlling the conversation with what we want to hear? Stop doing the devil’s job of shutting people out of the kingdom of God. It’s time we support our brothers and sisters. It’s time to change the narrative. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, check out the tips below.
1. Talk Therapy
Talking is a major key to recovery. You may not want to talk at first, but it’s not healthy to bottle in all of your emotions. Contrary to popular belief, therapists actually encourage a relationship with God. Please reach out to a therapist, spiritual leader or licensed professional that you are comfortable with. People really do care about you. It’s time to unpack the baggage that you’ve been carrying.
2. Pull Into God
Some days you may have lengthy prayers, other days you can only manage to say ‘God help me.’ That’s okay. All you have to do is invite God to your space and he’ll show up. Every day won’t be roses and ponies, but spending time with God does make things a little easier. Spend time reading your bible, listening to worship music or even attending church services. But take one step at a time.
3. Celebrate the little achievements
A mental illness can make life seem very black and white. Either you are a complete success or a complete failure, there’s little room for error. It’s time to break this type of thinking, you may not get it perfect, but give yourself room for mistakes. No one lives on either side of the spectrum. Celebrate achievements in your life no matter how small. Even if it’s getting out of bed, not sitting in darkness, or combing your hair, realize that this process is slow and will not happen overnight. This is okay, take as much time as you need to recover, just don’t do it alone.