Let’s Talk Mental Health

By Teresa M. Tierney © 2012

In the share-it-all era of Facebook, it seems we share almost everything. We see posts that range from the trivial—having the world’s best coffee—to the personal—having the best (or worst) day of my life—to what is known as TMI, too much information—if you can imagine it, surely it’s been posted! But does anyone post about mental illness?

With mental illness, we are silent. Only a select few are in the loop. When I told a co-worker my good friend needed to go to the hospital, I deliberately omitted her diagnosis of major depressive disorder. I told myself this is her story to tell, not mine – but deep down I felt she wouldn’t want anyone else to know.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh/nih.gov), one in four Americans will experience a mental disorder this year. With medication and/or psychotherapy, most people can resume productive lives. However, only a third will seek treatment. One factor is America’s cultural stigma over mental health issues.

What if we talked as openly about our mental health as we talk about our physical? Isn’t that how we get things addressed in our lives? When my friend told me she hurt her back and her leg was numb, I told her my husband suffered the same symptoms and now has permanent nerve damage because of the delay in seeing a surgeon. Doesn’t that help my friend get better medical care?

Delayed medical care can cost you your life—or full use of your limbs. Delay addressing mental health issues and you risk a mild case of depression turning into a major depressive episode–or a single anxiety attack turning into full-blown agoraphobia.

When my husband suffered his first panic attack 34 years ago, he had never heard of such a thing. It took a year for him to seek treatment. In the meantime, his panic attacks became full-blown agoraphobia. He couldn’t leave the house and lost his job. If he’d known to seek treatment earlier, the long-term impact may have been minimized. As it is, panic attacks affect his decisions to this day.

How do we overcome this stigma that is so much a part of our society? When we hide our sorrows we close ourselves off from healing. We need to stop whispering and come into the light. If we share what we are dealing with, chances are the person we talk to has dealt with something similar.

God never leaves us alone (see Deuteronomy 31:6). In Matthew 7:7, he promises if we seek, we will find. In Philippians 4:19, he promises to provide all our needs. God places people in our lives who are ready to help, if only we will open ourselves up so they can see our need.

If one out of four people experience a mental disorder in a given year that means every American is dealing with it in some way. That’s either you, or me, or my friend, or your neighbor. Maybe you’ve been there and you are the one God wants to help the next person along. By opening up, you make yourself available to be light in a dark world.

Let’s start talking.

Would you start the conversation today by leaving your comments in the box below?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Teresa Tierney is a freelance writer, wife, mother of two, grandmother of three.  She blogs atwww.RoadblocksToForgiveness.com You may contact her at T68114@gmail.com


  1. Good article Teresa, Spot on. Silence over these issues doesn't help, yet the fear of judgement is real. If people can realize they are not alone and that there is a safe place, maybe they will open up and find the help they need. I guess it starts with us as individuals being a safe place people can come to for prayer and support. Keep up the good work! Angela D Meyer

    1. Angela, glad you liked the article. Yes, change starts with us an individuals bringing an end to the fear of judgment. Our society judges people on everything--how pretty they are, how skinny or fat, how tall or short, how wealthy or poor. We must learn to look past these superficial things and love people unconditionally.