By Luke Grayson
No one expects to one day wake up and find that their brain is now at war with itself, and no one prepares you for if and when that day will come.
Even with people in the public eye, most recently Meghan Markle, being more open about their mental health, there is still an insurmountable amount of shame, loneliness, and isolation surrounding it. Mental illness is still painted as a personal or moral failing and therefore something to be ashamed of and something you should be able to just suck up and get over. Many times, asking for help is seen as attention seeking and met with negative reactions until and unless it leads to a suicide. In a recent interview, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, recounts how her own mental illness brought shame and intense feelings of loneliness, leading up to being afraid of being alone because of what she might do. She explained how she asked for help multiple times and every time she was met with a “no.”
My own history of mental illness began like many other people. I was 13 the first time I experienced a manic episode. I was terrified, I didn’t know what was happening or how to begin to ask for help. I was almost 20 by the time I finally was able to get help and get properly diagnosed. By then I had had many manic and depressive episodes, suicidal thoughts and attempts, had attempted self-harm, and felt completely and utterly alone, even when surrounded by friends.
As recently as January, I have been admitted to the psychiatric hospital for depressive episodes that nearly led to suicide attempts and self-harm. I am open about my experience with Bipolar disorder and PTSD because I hope that those around me feel heard and seen in their own struggles. I am not ashamed of my illnesses. I no longer feel the need to hide parts of me, and I know that I have people who support me even in my darkest moments.
Asking for help and speaking openly about your mental health takes a great deal of courage and hope that you will be met with support and open arms. When you are met with attitudes that reinforce the ideas that it is shameful to struggle with mental illness, it makes it that much harder to speak up to another person. As a whole, we all need to be open to talking about mental illness and offer support while the person is still alive. We all need to remember that mental illness can be deadly and that help is available. Sometimes we just need help finding the resources we need.
We also need to understand how mental illness differently effects the communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community, how it is a harder conversation within these families, and recognize that resources are harder to find when many therapists don’t have the training or understanding to serve these communities.
Mental illness is not something that is shameful, it is not a moral failing or something you deserve, it is an illness that should be treated the same as any physical illness. Conversations surrounding mental illness are usually silenced until someone ends their life, until it is too late to help them, but these conversations are vital to live our lives. Conversations like these should be shared without shame and hurt, they belong out in the open. Those struggling deserve to be met with help and understanding within families, friends, churches, and schools.
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Spokane Regional Crisis Line: 1 877-266-1818
- Crisis Text: 741-741
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (press 1)
- Veterans Crisis text: 838-255
- Deaf and hard of hearing Veterans line: 1-800-799-4889
Luke Grayson-Skinner is a 20-something, disabled, queer and nonbinary trans person who has been in Spokane since 2012 and is an advocate for the LGBT and transgender communities, foster youth and those experiencing homelessness. Luke is also a slam (performance) poet and visual artist who experiments with acrylic paint, spray paint, graphite and other mediums, who created a spray paint mural at the Spokane County Fair in 2022. Luke doesn’t currently know quite what faith-base they “belong in,” but grew up in an Evangelical church that they left when they moved to Spokane and has attended an open and affirming UCC church off and on for the last 8 years. He will be relocating to Oklahoma next summer to be closer to his family. Luke uses they/them and he/him pronouns.