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Per Mertesacker speaks up for World Mental Health Day

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Sea Of Springtime Wildflowers Spreads Across Southern California Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Today is World Mental Health Day. It’s a day set aside to help people understand mental health and illness, to help raise awareness of mental health issues, and to help destigmatize mental illness and eliminate the social stigma that often comes with a diagnosis of mental illness.

Workplaces, schools, and organizations all over the world take some time today to help educate their people about depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental illnesses, in order to better support the nearly 600 million people worldwide who suffer from anxiety, depression, or both.

One thing that high-profile companies often do on days like this is trot out a celebrity spokesperson to say a few words about What This Cause Means To Me. They’re often well meaning, but many times they don’t have a connection to the thing other than that they are good-hearted people who want to do the right thing by their employer - which is laudable.

These things are always more effective, though, when there’s an actual connection to the issue being discussed. Which brings us to Arsenal and Per Mertesacker.

In this video, Per talks about the year of compulsory national service he did after leaving school (in Germany, you do a year in the army or a year of national service), and how during that year, he worked in a hospital that cared for the mentally ill.

He speaks about the dichotomy he lived of training in the morning, living in a world where everyone recognized him and the adulation flowed, and then going to this facility in the afternoon and helping people who couldn’t even get out of bed because the weight of the world was just too much in a lot of cases.

It’s entirely too simple for those of us who are fortunate enough to be without any mental illness to just sort of...forget that a lot of people struggle with it. It’s also entirely too simple for people who do have a mental illness to feel like they’re completely alone in the world, and that there’s no way out and no light at the end of a tunnel for them.

The good news? Both of those simplicities are false! If you don’t have a mental illness, and want to help those that do, there are any number of ways you can. Volunteer at a hospital, at a local health center, or just read up on it and understand what mental illness looks like, so if you encounter someone who you think might need help, you can point them in the right direction.

And if you struggle with mental illness, there is help. At least in the US, almost every county has mental health services ranging from crisis hotlines that are staffed 24/7 and ready to listen and help, to clinics that provide regular counseling and other mental health-related services to anyone, regardless of ability to pay. You’re not alone, and there is help.

So, watch the video, be impressed with Per’s story (it’s pretty great), and spend some time today thinking about what mental illness looks like in your life and how you can help those who need it. We need each other more than ever these days, so anything you can do to help will make a huge difference.