Despite our achievements in science and technology, and our willingness as a society to revise our social norms, the stigma surrounding mental illness still looms and it looms large. May is “Mental Health Awareness Month” and the reason behind it could not be more important.

People forget the brain is a part of the physical body; suffering from a mental illness—whether it’s for a few days or for a lifetime—should be as normal to the outside observer, or family member, or employer, as the common cold. Are we ashamed when we get a sinus infection? Are we embarrassed to call out of work when we have the flu? Then why are we when our brains are sick? We shouldn’t be.

We should not be ashamed to say: “We suffer from mental illness.” 

This is not a challenge to those who have mental illness; rather, this is a challenge to those who have refused, and continue to refuse, to acknowledge the struggles of the mentally ill. The more open we are about mental illness, the less taboo it will become. The more we talk about it, and the more we listen to each other, the healthier we will be.

If you’re comfortable speaking about your struggle, please feel free to share a video and challenge others to listen. Or write your struggle down on a piece of paper and post a selfie on social media. If you’re not comfortable with either, that’s fine, too. Please share this and encourage others to speak out.

Since my sister died a few years ago, I became submerged in a state of chronic depression have been struggling to come up for air. I plunged deeper into depression after the recent, and sudden, death of my father, which exacerbated my condition. In my day-to-day life, what I used to take great pleasure in, I don’t take nearly as much pleasure in anymore—my lowest lows far outweigh my highest highs.

In order to empathize with those who suffer from mental illness, we must have a better understanding of what they’re suffering from, and that understanding requires effort on everyone else’s part. If society doesn’t want to listen, we have to make them listen. The days of not talking about mental illness are over.

I encourage you to speak out. #MentalHealthChallenge

I confront mental illness, addiction and suicide head-on in my film No Alternative, available to watch now on iTunes: https://apple.co/2TiYU7e and Amazon: https://amzn.to/2HX7uSV

What are your thoughts?