Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. 1 in 5 Americans are affected by a mental health condition every year and almost every American is affected or impacted through their work, friends and family.

Many people mistakenly believe that anyone with a mental health condition is unable to function or perform well in a work environment. This however is very far from the truth.

Mental illness is defined as a condition that alters thinking, mood, or behavior, is mediated by the brain, and is associated with personal distress and/or impaired functioning. Problems with anxiety, stress, mood and addictions are all possible mental health conditions. Yet, while these conditions can make life terribly difficult and can even be life-threating, most people experiencing these conditions are still working.

Though mental disorders are widespread in the population, only a small proportion, about 6 percent, or 1 in 17, suffer from a serious mental illness that prevents them from reasonably managing in the world. That means that most of the people who have a mental illness, are simply trying their best to live and work while carrying this extra burden.

Stigma, fear, embarrassment, feeling-weak; these are all reasons many working people continue to suffer and won’t seek treatment. Even when, as a result of their mental health condition, their work performance is impaired or their interpersonal relationships and communication is strained, many working people will continue to hide their condition rather than ask for help.

People who are struggling with emotional problems, who are distracted and unable to focus well at work, or who are having trouble at home and in their relationships, are not “those other people.” They are us.  In fact, according to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, over the course of a lifetime, the majority of people – almost 6 out of 10 – will experience issues that could be diagnosed as a mental health condition.

The more we understand mental health conditions and what it really means to have a mental illness,  the more we come to understand ourselves and the role that emotions and thoughts play in every person’s behaviors, relationships, communications, interpretation of the world, and happiness.

In this Mental Health Awareness Month we hope you’ll take a few moments to learn more about the realities of mental illness, and take the steps to change the misunderstand and stigma that often surrounds the subject. And we encourage you to take the stigmaFree pledge. Click here to learn more and take the pledge now!