In recent years I've come face-to-face with mental illness, as several people close to me were hospitalized with severe suicidal depression, and manic and schizophrenic thoughts. More than once I've sat in the psych ward waiting to hear the diagnosis.

Before this, I was certainly aware of mental illness—I'd read about it, and done shows on the horrors that can happen when we look away rather than deal with the disease. I didn't fully understand it, though. As is the case with a lot of people, it wasn't real to me until it was in my own family, until I was in the position of trying to help loved ones take better care of themselves and stay on their prescribed medications (a real problem, since many people who start to feel better want to go off them).

I'm a good talker. But I soon learned that you can't talk someone out of depression. Mental illness is real. And like everything else in life, it operates on a spectrum. Though there are common symptoms, everyone experiences it differently.

Yet so many people live in shame, hiding their struggles, not seeking help. We, as a culture, have not fully acknowledged how much help is needed.

The only real shame is on us for not being willing to speak openly. For continuing to deny that mental health is related to our overall health. We need to start talking, and we need to start now.

If you haven't yet read "The Storm Inside," please give it a look in the February issue of O. And let the conversation begin.


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