I was having a conversation with a close friend the other day and she said something that really resonated with me. She said:
“some people just don’t look like they need help. It’s sad because many of these same people do.”
She is right! Many things prevent society from recognizing emotional and mental health needs such as personality, tone of voice, career choice, prestige, income, lifestyle, culture, ethnicity, age, gender, etc. For example, would you think a businessman in a powerful corporation could be suffering from delusions? Would you think a beautiful teen girl is being sexually abused? Would you think the sweet elderly woman next door believes you can read her thoughts? For many people, accepting the reality that those who appear “together” may not be so together after all is difficult. It’s almost as if thinking this way goes against the grains of our social rules and optimistic outlook on life. We approach the world with “tented glasses” and we design what we want the world to be. Unfortunately, we fail to make room for reality. As a result, we neglect to take time out of our busy lives to reach out to others in need (i.e., those who look needy and those who don’t). It’s essential that we become sensitive to the potential need(s) that require mental health intervention, support, and care.
What personality characteristics, physical appearances, lifestyles, or career titles might prevent you from recognizing desperate search for help from others? The list below provides some common examples:
- Attractiveness: Attractiveness blinds the majority of society to see only good attributes (talent, charm, personality, education, career) and we often have trouble imagining that this same person may also be depressed, experience panic attacks, or even suffer from hallucinations.
- Intelligence: Intelligence is the seat of our logic and ability to arrive at logical conclusions about things in life. For the majority of society, intelligence can make or break you. Unfortunately, it negatively affects a lot of people because their suffering is often overlooked simply because they are intelligent and capable of high performance.
- Articulation & personality: People with great speaking skills and personality who attract large numbers of people are often overlooked. Why would anything be wrong with the person who can entertain and charm a room without effort?
- Internalized illness: I consider illnesses such as depression and anxiety “internalized disorders” because they are hidden. People who are good at putting up a front to get through work or interact momentarily, are often overlooked.
- Prestige & money: Money and prestige automatically qualifies many people as self-sufficient and strong. The reality is that people with prestige also have struggles. In fact, highly recognized people have admitted to suffering from various illnesses.
- Educational attainment: Education automatically qualifies an individual as powerful. Our society is designed to cater to the “educated.” This often blinds us to their suffering or mental health problems.
- Religiosity: People affiliated with strict orthodox churches often suffer from mood disorders (depression, etc.) and other illnesses but refuse to admit this for fear of not appearing “Christian.” As a Believer, I realize that this mindset imprisons those seeking freedom! This erroneous assumption of what qualifies an individual as “Christian” has resulted in negative consequences.
- Illness that affects home-life: Hoarding is a real problem that can be hidden very easily.
The above list does not mean that every person like the above is “hiding” something or has any mental health problems. But keep in mind that an attractive, charming, educated, articulate, self-sufficient, and perhaps even religious individual could be the one who truly needs your care and concern.
As always, I wish you well.
Note: This article was originally published on April 5, 2013 but has been updated for accuracy.