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The impacts of mental illness surround us every day

Jake Weirick

Have you ever stopped to reflect on what mental illness actually looks like? What picture forms in your head when you hear those words?

For some – especially those who live or work in certain pockets around the city – your vision might be homelessness. For others, our minds might jump to a particular friend or family member who has confided in you the details of their mental health journey. But for many, the concept of mental illness seems vague and ethereal. You might be able to list a handful of well-known mental illnesses, but would likely have a difficult time relating the issue to your day-to-day life.

The truth is that the impacts of mental illness surround us every day, often without us even noticing. You probably know when co-workers quit because you’ve had to pick up some additional slack or work longer hours until they are replaced. 40% of the time, their leaving was the result of a mental health concern. Perhaps you’ve listened to a radio news story or seen a social media post about how Wichita or Sedgwick County is spending your tax dollars. But did you know that thousands of your tax dollars are spent annually subsidizing police departments, hospital emergency rooms, and prisons instead of funding prevention initiatives that could have reduced utilization of the social safety net by catching early signs of mental illness in our elementary and middle schools?

The next time you hear a story about mental illness, think about the children, adults, and seniors in your life, and how the seemingly innocuous actions they take each day actually reflect the mental health struggles that they are trying to hide. Your new-found empathy can go a long way in helping open the conversation.

Eric Litwiller has served the south central Kansas community through his work at Mental Health Association since September of 2017. As Director of Development and Communications, he is charged with seeking the private investment required to raise awareness of the scope of mental health concerns throughout the region in an effort to eliminate the unfair stigma associated with mental illness.