May is Mental Health month.

Mental illness is such an important issue, and one that is close to my heart. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This is something, that, not too long ago, I kept pretty quiet about...and there are still people who think I should keep it to myself. Not talking about something doesn't make it go away.
Mental health is something we need to talk about. It should not be stigmatized or swept under the rug. It has become a huge issue in this country, and we need an honest, open dialogue in our society where it is concerned.

Since I first "came out" about being bipolar, I have had countless messages from people thanking me for my honesty. People who are too ashamed to admit that they, too, are afflicted with mental illness. This should not be the case. There should be no shame in being diagnosed with something beyond one's control. It should be looked upon no differently than a diagnosis of diabetes or cancer.

I have felt liberated since I decided to share my experience. Is it my fault I have a chemical imbalance? Is it my fault I undergo periods of intense depression, so intense I don't want to go on at times?

No.

And the attitude that there is some sense of shame that ought to accompany a diagnosis such as mine is exactly what contributes to the large suicide rate in this country. And these things can be prevented. Prevented through talking, sharing, understanding, helping each other...isn't that what life is about?

I facilitate a support group for bipolar disorder and depression, and we meet every Monday night at 6:30 p.m., in the basement of the Delphos Public Library. If you've been diagnosed with either disorder and need somewhere to get support and love, I encourage you to attend.

The time is now. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness website, one in four adults experiences a mental health disorder in a given year. Look around you. That's a lot of people. Chances are you know someone who might need some help. People who feel they can't admit to this "weakness" because it's not accepted in our society. That needs to stop. Now. It's time for change. I had more courage to be open about my own struggle because of other people I know who weren't afraid to be open themselves. It only leads to good things. It only gets better from there.

Remaining silent about things that matter will not get us anywhere. I have received such an outpouring of support since I came forward. My life has drastically improved. Please don't be afraid to talk about it. Every month should be Mental Health Month. Hopefully, in time, if we start talking, it will be.

You can e-mail Sara Berelsman at saraberelsman@ymail.com. Check out her blog at www.sarasoccupiedmind.blogspot.com.