Although one in five adults live with a mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, many fear speaking openly about their mental health.
A Parker man, who spoke to Colorado Community Media on the condition he not be named for reasons of privacy, said learning he lived with bipolar disorder came as a complete shock to him.
Diagnosed at 47, the man said he wouldn't have looked in the mirror at age 46 and thought, “This is the face of someone with a mental illness.”
He finds some comfort in the 1-in-5 statistic. Looking around a Greenwood Village coffee shop in early October, he wondered how many others in the room were like him.
“Maybe that person over there is suffering,” he said. “You just don't know.”
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Hal Knight, 43, who has lived with bipolar disorder since his 20s and has attended support groups in Highlands Ranch, believes society has made measurable progress in its perception of mental health and expectations of men — but stigma still exists.
“If I'm at my kid's school around other teachers and parents, I'm not going to be like, `Yeah, last night I went to my support group,' ” he said. “There's still this fear of people judging you and being scared of you.”
The Parker man said he keeps his bipolar disorder, for which he's been hospitalized previously, private from most outside his inner circle. Among other concerns, there's anxiety about being judged, rejected by friends, feared by strangers and passed over for jobs.
Most often, he worries people will think he's “not worth investing in” if they knew he is mentally ill.