Anybody getting ready for a job interview knows the importance of a first impression. Within 30 seconds or less, as soon as you go into the room or begin a Skype session or open your mouth; it’s happening…people are judging you. What all can be understood in this first encounter with a person? What can we know about a person by simply looking at him or her?
Mental illness is often thought of as an “invisible” illness or disease. Most of the time, you cannot tell by looking at a person that he or she is actually suffering from a mental health disease. And most of the time the person is not going to easily offer this personal information, so it is also a “silent” illness. It is invisible because it is a disease of the mind, not always manifest in outward ways, and it is silent because most people choose not to talk about it because of feelings of shame and suffer silently, alone.
Is mental illness really invisible? If we look closer with the eye of compassion, can we see the suffering of another person? Is mental illness really silent? If we listen with our hearts, can we hear the cry for help of another person?
As the family member of loved ones who suffer from mental illness, I know that it takes courage and effort to see with compassion and listen with heart. We do not need to suffer alone, people’s struggle with mental illness can become visible when we trust enough to open up and share our pain. People with mental illness can be heard when stories are shared and compassionate support is offered.
Together, we can be a supportive community, seeing and hearing each other into wholeness and healing.