One in five people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
While the statistics are high, the number of people who seek treatment for a mental illness is low. The stigma associated with mental illness adds to the issue of untreated conditions.
"With physical illness, you can possibly see someones pain, but with mental health issues you don't see their internal struggle you don't see their internal pain," explained Dr. Frank Addonizio, Chief Clinical Officer at Holly Hill Hospital in Raleigh.
"So, it's uncomfortable for people and those who are not experiencing it could be judgmental or insensitive maybe not meant to be. They don't understand it. It's a physical illness just like any other medical problem. We don't think of cancer and heart disease as being things people don't get help for, but, when it comes to mental health illness people are shier about seeking treatment. They worry about the stigma what will people think, what will my family think. But, with one in five individuals experiencing some type of mental health issue, that's a huge number."
Morrisville native Pooja Mehta, 23, is one of the millions living with a mental illness.
"I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 15 years old," Mehta said. "I lived with symptoms since 13, so, basically, as long as I can remember and all my adult life going to therapy taking medication and living with this disease."
Mehta said her symptoms get so severe, she has attempted suicide three times.
"Thank God, none of them were successful," Mehta said. "The last one was different. My mother raised me in a very religious household, and we have a very big belief in Hinduism that things happen for a reason. And, my last attempt, I don't know if it's a realization but it really kind of hit me that the reason, possibly that these aren't working is because I still have work to do. It's not my time. I'm not supposed to go."
Today, Mehta works with NAMI-NC as an advocate for others living with mental illness. She hopes sharing her story will inspire others to get help and understand they too can thrive.
"If they're able to use what I'm putting out in the universe to better their lives. And if even one person is able to do that then I've been successful," Mehta said.
NAMI NC will hold a walk on May 18, 2019, at Dorothea Dix park at 9:30 a.m.
If you are experiencing a crisis, the NAMI NC helpline can be reached at 800-451-9682 or firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also text the helpline at 919-999-6527.