Have you ever heard the phrases “mindset matters”, or “get your head in the game”, or “you can do anything you set your mind to”? These are just a few of the things we are told from the time we are children participating in sports, to when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed as adults in regards to our brains. But, how many times have you ever been asked if your mind is okay? Rather, how have you learned to identify if your mind is not okay? Mental illness is something that is more common than one may think, in fact, it affects 1 in 5 Americans every year. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. Even more Americans go undiagnosed, reports estimate that half of Americans who have a mental illness are never diagnosed. I have recently been exposed to mental illness first hand and it is not something to mess with.

Our brains are responsible for every voluntary thing we do. From thoughts, to movements, to emotions, we get every signal from our brains. And our brains are beautiful, it is truly amazing how intricate and powerful the human brain is when it is healthy and in tip top shape. Even more amazing, is how wild and dangerous the brain can become when it is unhealthy. It is like a peacefully flowing river that turns into wild and treacherous flood waters in a matter of minutes. Brains are delicate and they should be treated that way. Especially if they become treacherous flood waters.

Mental illness is real, and there are millions of people worldwide who do not recognize this reality. If educated, the signs of many mental illnesses are very noticeable and treatment can happen rather quickly.  While I am amazed at the beauty and the beast of the brain, I am also in awe at how medicine and treatment and return the brain back to a peaceful, welcoming river in a short time span. It is truly a sight to see when the mind is broken and gets repaired with medicine. Mental illness is just like any other injury or medical condition. Some people who get diagnosed with a mental ailment have to take medication the rest of their life, just the same as someone who has diabetes or high blood pressure. Others, only have to take medication for a period of time, until the brain heals.

My question is, and it comes from the bottom of my heart, why are people so ignorant about mental health? Why is there such a stigma in regards to this part of our health? After all health and well being does include your mind. Your brain. You can be on point with your diet and exercise, and physically healthy, but if you do not acknowledge that fact that the health of your brain is crucial to your happiness and existence then you are not truly healthy. On the flip side, if we as a society and as a world continue to fail to educate people, adults and children, about what a broken brain looks like, then we are doing a disservice to our growth as humans.

As an athlete, professional, spouse or parent, it is important to recognize your weaknesses and work to improve them. There will be weaknesses that you will not be able to change, but just being aware of them will make you stronger. This is where we are with mental illness as a society. We are simply uneducated and unaware that a broken brain is a real thing. If someone says they are depressed, a typical answer would be “all you have to do is change is your mindset”. This is the equivalent to telling someone with asthma to breath deeper, or telling someone with a migraine to take an Advil. It’s nonsensical. So the only way a person with a mental illness can be heard, or taken serious, is if they go off the deep end. If people were more educated in noticing the signs and symptoms off popular mental health issues, those who suffer, would never have to get to the deep end. People with broken brains are not stupid, they are not scary monsters, and they cannot control it. They are just like you. Mental illness does not judge. It affects both the young and old, the rich and the poor, the super thin and the obese, the educated and uneducated, and every single type of person in between.

My question to you is, when you hear the words mental illness what do you see in your mind? I challenge you to educate yourself about mental health and the different ailments that exist in our world today. Make mental health a priority in your life. Most importantly, if you encounter someone with a broken brain, don’t judge them or their loved ones, because statistically speaking, there is someone in your circle who has a broken brain as well. Keep in mind that just like any other injury, a broken brain can be treated and healed. I challenge you to be loving and encouraging to everyone you encounter, because you never know what they may be going through. What are you waiting for? There is no better time than the day before tomorrow.

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