Your mental health really is very important

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2022

I have now made it five years in the employ of The Daily Leader. So I decided to look back at some of the first columns I wrote for this newspaper.

My first five columns were written about hockey, horror movies, complaining, the miracle of resurrection and one about mental health.

That mental health column was a milestone for me. Though I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression, etc., for the majority of my life, it took so long for me to get to the point where I could even admit to myself that I had issues — and that I needed help. It took a good bit longer before I asked for that help, and much more time before I could admit to it publicly.

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But the day I wrote the column I felt so unburdened. I recall the peace I felt and my hope that it would help someone else to know they are not alone in mental health struggles, and that admitting you need help (and seeking it) for mental issues is no different essentially from admitting you have a broken foot and need medical assistance.

And it should carry no more stigma.

As recently as just a few months ago, I heard from someone who told me the column gave them encouragement to admit they had similar struggles. I’m so grateful and humbled to know that several people have reached out to me since it was first published to say “thanks” or “pray for me” — a couple of  messages were anonymous.

The following is a portion of that column from 2017. I hope it can prove beneficial to someone. Maybe you.

As many as one in every five U.S. adults will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

I am one of those.

In Mississippi, nearly 42,500 people have sought help with mental health conditions this year and were treated by less than 7,000 trained employees. The general fund for the state has grown over the past 10 years from $4.9 billion to $5.8 billion, but the budget for mental health has remained roughly the same, increasing only from $536 million to $619.5 million.

Let’s put it another way. Over that 10 year period, the number of people served in mental health cases has increased by 126 percent, while the number of employees has decreased by 22 percent. To cover that increase in need, the mental health budget has only grown by 15.4 percent. That’s more need covered by less employees and a smaller budget per need.

… My contention is that the number of people who ask for help is far less than the number of people who need help.

… According to the Mayo definition of mental illness, I definitely have issues. I have depression, anxiety, ADHD and some addictive behaviors.

My depression, untreated, held me captive in bed for days, with uncontrollable tears and abject sadness.

My anxiety, unaddressed, saw me leave work before clocking in on multiple occasions, my hands shaking violently, sweat running down my back and my breath coming in shallow gasps.

My ADHD has obliterated focus and memories, along with motivation, at times.

If I find a new song I really like, I will listen to it on repeat for hours. That’s addictive, or obsessive or … something.

I have treated these mental issues with doctor-prescribed meds. I’ve also addressed them with behavior modifications, most of which I’ve developed on my own that I know have helped me in the past.

For example, if I feel myself getting very anxious in a crowd, I can take deep breaths, move to the outside of the room or a fixed physical spot (like a post, stage or something similar), look out a window or remind myself how soon the event will conclude. These actions have helped me on multiple occasions to get through an otherwise enjoyable event with a smile on my face.

When my issues conspire together against me, I am anxious, depressed and distracted all at once (and probably listening to a sad song on repeat) and my fidgeting gets worse, my stomach starts to cramp and my old stutter comes back.

It gets (wince) diff-, diff- … it’s hard.

Telling someone who deals with any mental issue to just get over it, stop worrying, have more faith or sit still works wonders.

No, not really. All it does is worry them more and let them know you don’t understand at all.

And to tell me to stop being anxious because worrying is a sin? Gee, thanks. I’m suddenly cured.

And admitting in print to a large number of people, many of whom I don’t know personally, that I have these issues does absolutely nothing to help fight my anxiety.

I don’t know how many of you can identify with what I’m saying, but if you can, take heart. You’re not alone. You’re not a stigma or a weirdo. But if you haven’t asked for help, you’re hurting yourself. And maybe the ones who love you.

… If you love someone who exhibits signs of mental illness, love them harder. Be more patient. Pray more for them. But please don’t criticize them or give up on them.

News Editor Brett Campbell can be reached at 601-265-5307 or