Right before takeoff, flight attendants demonstrate what to do in case of an in-flight emergency. They instruct passengers to apply their own oxygen masks first—before helping others. To some, this may make little sense. It seems selfish. But in order to be there for others, people must have enough strength of their own. And strength is contagious. When multiplied, it’s a force that cannot be reckoned with.

People need people. There are times people can’t handle everything on their own, and that’s okay. Life is challenging, but it’s also pretty amazing, considering the obstacles society and individuals face on a daily basis, not to mention what the world is currently enduring together.

The mere fact that people who are suffering refuse to seek professional help because of astronomical healthcare costs is absurd—which is why vastly improving the standards of the American healthcare system is vital. That being said, your well-being is worth more than a hospital or pharmacy bill. If someone breaks their arm, they more than likely wouldn’t let it heal on its own without a cast. The same goes for brains. Brains, too, need mending and TLC when things go awry.

As a global society, we have a long way to go. Stigmas surrounding mental illnesses are crumbling, but they need to be shattered. People are receiving professional care, trialing medications, and finding new ways to cope. But care needs to be more affordable and accessible. People are opening up about their experiences. But too many are ashamed of their flaws or are afraid of being judged or shunned. People are becoming braver, overcoming obstacles, and realizing that things can and will get better. But suicide rates are still staggering.

Help is out there. In fact, it’s within arm’s reach. Therapists, counselors, religious leaders, and other trusted sources are readily available. Suicidal ideations, attempts, and demises occur across all races, ages, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and income levels. At a broader level, mental illness itself does not discriminate. Anyone can succumb to its cruelty, whether or not the signs are clear. Change must start at a grassroots level. So be good to each other and be good to yourselves. It’s important to be kind to others, including complete strangers. A simple smile or hello can quite literally turn someone’s life around. People need to know that they matter.

If you battle with a mental illness, are experiencing grief or pain, or simply need someone to talk to, there are a number of resources right at your fingertips to help cope—many of them are located right here in Milwaukee. People are here to help. Here are some of them.

CLINICS AND HEALTH CENTERS

Access Recovery Mental Health Services

Aurora Health Care

Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin

Lakeshore Community Health Care

Lighthouse Clinic

Milwaukee Mental Health Associates

Milwaukee Regional Medical Center

Outreach Community Health Centers

Rogers Behavioral Health

HOTLINES

Crisis Text Line
Text 741-741

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine
Call 800-950-6264

Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 800-273-8255

COPE Hotline
Call 262-377-2673

ORGANIZATIONS

Mental Health America (MHA) of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Chapter

Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force

Milwaukee Coalition for Children’s Mental Health

National Association of Mental Illness ­­­(NAMI) Milwaukee

Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Call 800-985-5990 or text to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

The Trevor Project
Crisis intervention and suicide prevention to those in the LGBTQ+ community. Call 866-488-7386, chat online with a live counselor or text 678678.

Veterans Crisis Line
Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text 838-255.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to help shatter the stigma surrounding mental illness. At this point in history, it goes without saying that the American healthcare system needs improvement—specifically, to make treatments and resources more accessible and affordable. It is unjust and dangerous for mental illnesses to continue to be pushed to the wayside. And this applies to all communities and cultures.

The current state of affairs is nothing like anyone living has ever faced before. Don’t be afraid to speak up or take a break if you’re struggling. If you know someone who is battling demons, let them lean. Encourage them to seek counsel. Comfort them when they need it most. Remind them of how loved they are through both words and actions. It’s much easier said than done, but it’s important to understand that asking for help is a brave feat, not a cowardly act. You’d be surprised to find out how many others can attest to what you’re currently bearing. Life can be an uphill climb, and there is certainly a lot of scary stuff happening in our communities right now. But there is still so much beauty and hope to discover.

Taking care of mental health is as important as attending to physical health. The truth is, everyone needs a regular tune-up of the mind, just like an annual physical checkup. Keep reaching out. Keep offering a helping hand. Keep writing your story.

And please know you’re never, ever alone.

Stay strong, Milwaukee.

About The Author

Ceara Milligan
Contributor

Ceara "Kiwi" Milligan is a professional marketing strategist, writer and mental health advocate who is proud to call Milwaukee home. She loves baking, cooking, writing, listening to music, playing and hosting trivia, telling lame jokes and petting every dog that crosses her path while ignoring the human owners. She considers David Bowie, Lady Gaga and George Harrison her personal deities.

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