Don’t judge a book by its cover – we all matter

When we are searching for a new book to read, whether we are shopping in a bookstore, browsing online, or visiting the local library, we often pick up the books that look interesting and engaging from image on the front.

As we are judging a book by the cover, we may take time to look inside of it or read a small description, but unless what we see is appealing to us, we won’t purchase or borrow the book and we may even move on to something better. It may have been a great read and even have a huge impact on our lives, but because it didn’t look good from the outside, it was not worth looking further inside.

It’s easy to judge first glance about books, clothing and even people. If we see someone who appears to be experiencing intense mood changes, we may ignore them. We will walk the other direction and pay no attention to the struggle they are experiencing. What we are seeing on the outside is not something we want to investigate, so we avoid it. It’s so easy to walk the other way, but how would we feel if we were the ones in trouble and someone chose to ignore us? How would you feel? Maybe lonely? Or forgotten?

Mental health can look, sound and feel different for everyone. One diagnosis is not the same for everyone, and when we take a moment to empathize, we can reassure others that they are not alone in their journey. It’s important for people struggling with mental health conditions to know that they are not alone in this, and that there is someone who can relate. Here are some ways you can reach out:

· Share Your Story: If you feel comfortable in your recovery journey, take time to share your story with others. Sharing a story about your own mental health challenges can help in your own recovery as well as offer encouragement and support to other people who may be in similar experiences.

· Give Back: Consider giving back in a way that best works for you to an organization who supports mental health awareness, research and/or advocacy. This could include voting on related issues at the local, state or national level, volunteering, or donating.

· Spread Awareness: Let the world know that it is OK to not be OK. Mental health affects nearly 20% of all Americans and is something to not be ashamed of. Share messages of hope on social media or send words of encouragement to a friend who is struggling and let them know they are not alone.

· Reassure Your Loved One: At times, mental illness can feel isolating and frightening. If your loved one discloses their struggles, listen and validate them. Choose to walk towards them instead of away.

Remember, don’t forget to take care of you. Learn more about Wood County resources by visiting www.wcadamh.org.

(Courtney Rice, MSW, LSW, is manager of marketing and communications, National Alliance Mental Illness Wood County.)