I have depression. Even though I’m in a place right now where things are consistently getting better, I know there will be times in the future when things will be hard again. One thing that has really helped me over the last few years is being more open about my struggles with mental illness. I used to try so hard to hide when I was having a tough time, but that made it almost impossible for anyone else to help me. The more open and honest I am about how I feel, the more I hear from and am able to connect with other people who have their own struggles.
When I was first diagnosed, I started looking around for a place where I could talk to other people with similar issues, but didn’t find many options. So, I started an informal peer support group for people with depression to meet and help each other. In the last year-and-a-half, over 300 people have joined the group. Helping and being helped by other people also experiencing mental illness keeps me going when I’m not sure I can make it. We all need help sometimes and we might even need more help than the people around us can provide.
That’s why I support NAMI as they help people in crisis through the NAMI HelpLine and peer-to-peer support programs.
Unfortunately, almost everyone who comes to the group says that on top of coping with mental illness, they have to fight society’s prejudices and that even the people closest to them don’t understand what it means to have a mental health condition. The more we understand mental health and mental illness, the better we can support those around us.
That’s why I support NAMI as they challenge societal stigma and educate younger generations about mental health through student-focused programs like NAMI Ending the Silence.
Good mental health care and support is often expensive and difficult to find. Searching for covered therapists, good psychiatrists and affordable care is a challenging task. I’m extremely lucky to have good health coverage and mental health care, as well as support from my family. But many people don’t.
That’s why I support NAMI as they advocate to make sure all Americans get the care they need.
Whether you have a mental illness or know someone who does—and since 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness, it’s almost guaranteed that you do—I hope you will join me in giving to NAMI. We help continue the important work they do.
Giving Tuesday, on Nov. 28, is an opportunity to show your support for the mental health community. Every dollar NAMI receives goes towards building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
Anna Engle is a graphic designer in Oakland, CA. She organizes a peer support meetup group for people with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.