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Letter: Mental health conditions are very real

I took a writing class last semester at Carroll Community College. Our task throughout the semester: to complete a series of works in which we told about our life events, people and places that were important to us. All of this was created in such a way as to reflect a vivid image of ourselves to the reader. We unearthed a lot of hurt throughout the course. Students wrote about topics such as traumatic events and deceased loved ones. Several students even wrote intimate details about their struggles with mental illness.

This is a topic I am familiar with; I have a diagnosed condition myself. Throughout this process I have learned some very important things about a group of diseases we as a society struggle to understand:

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1. Perception is a filter. The wealthiest man in the world may not be the happiest. The way we interpret our lives is not always a choice. Life events, brain chemistry and genetics are all factors that can make a fortunate person feel sincere emotional pain.

2. Mental illness is real. I have never had cancer, so I could never tell you what it is like. Still, I know it is a real ailment. If you have never faced mental health impairments, you can't know what it feels like. That does not make it any less real, or any less clinical.

3. You cannot always see a mental illness. Humans are good at putting on brave faces. The best way to know how a loved one is feeling is by talking to them, and making sure they feel that you will support them unconditionally. This is key.

4. Every mental illness is treatable. Mental health conditions don't always clear up like a bad infection will, but they are treatable nonetheless. Therapy and medication are scientifically proven to be effective.

In my writing course at Carroll, I learned that I am not alone in my struggles. In 2018, we are finally beginning to talk about mental health and strike down the stigma that has surrounded it. I hope that this conversation will allow the most hopeless people to feel that they will be accepted, and can get the treatment that they need.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Don't be afraid to take the first step towards help.

Eric Schneider

Hampstead

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