You are the owner of this article.

GUEST COLUMN: Walk to understand mental illness

Marta Turner mug

Marta Turner

Mental illness is a medical illness. Mood disorders, including major depression, and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18 to 44. Mental illness is a brain disorder that can be caused by hereditary or environmental factors. It can cause disturbances in thoughts that may make it difficult to function in life. Just like cancer, diabetes or heart disease, the sooner a mental illness can be identified and treated, the more successful the outcome will be.

There should be no shame for having an illness — just the challenge of dealing with it. Who do you know dealing with a mental illness? A family member, a friend, a co-worker, someone in your church or school or community group, yourself? Approximately one in every five people in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a year. Because of proper treatment, you likely know and interact with someone that you don’t even realize lives with a mental illness. Not all people living with a mental illness commit crimes, as is often portrayed by the media. People with mental illness may actually:

—Relive a traumatic event over and over in their mind as with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is an anxiety disorder;

—Have trouble maintaining a job because they cannot perform consistently due to the effect of their illness, as with schizophrenia (a thought disorder) or bipolar (a mood disorder);

—Live with a fear of abandonment by those who are supposed to love them the most, a symptom of borderline personality disorder (a mood disorder);

—Deal with being labeled lazy because of their lack of energy or not being able to take care of daily living skills — let alone dealing with the pressures of school, work, and social interactions — because of a chronic depressive disorder (a mood disorder).

Often family members live with the constant concern of when the next episode will hit and wonder what the fallout from the event will look like. Mental illness does not discriminate and can hit anyone, anytime, regardless of their life situation, but it need not be a diagnosis of despair. There is treatment. There is hope. The more we all learn about mental illness, the less stigma, mystery and fear surround the subject.

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, offers hope and help. NAMI Rome’s mission is to promote recovery and optimize the quality of life for Georgians affected by mental illness by fighting stigma, advocating for equal care, offering support, education, advocacy and research. We offer free classes to educate people about mental illness. We also hold weekly support groups for people living with a mental illness and their families. NAMI Rome works hard to support local, state and national initiatives, such as the local mental health court and legislation designed to remove barriers to treatment for those living with mental illness.

On Nov. 4, NAMI Rome will host its annual NAMI Walk at Heritage Park in Rome. Every journey begins with that first step. As NAMIWalks Rome hosts its 4th Northwest Georgia walk , we are proud to be part of NAMI’s largest and most successful mental health awareness and fundraising event in the country. Through NAMIWalks’ public display of support for people with mental health challenges, we are changing how Americans view mental illness. Please join us as we improve lives and our communities one step at a time. To register for the walk or to learn more about NAMI Rome, visit our website at namirome.org or come to a support group on Monday nights from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Rome First United Methodist Church on Third Avenue.

Marta Turner is a member of the board of directors for NAMI Rome.