What is a mental illness?
Throughout history mental illness has carried a stigma with it while causing needless suffering upon too many people. Having a mental illness is like having any other serious medical condition; it requires medical intervention and ongoing professional care. It is important to realise that a person’s identity is not their mental disorder.
Mental illness is characterised by symptoms that debilitate a person in important aspects of life including work, school, relationships and self-care. Far too many people don’t understand why a seemingly able-bodied person cannot work or continue with their education. It isn’t an illness or medical condition that is obvious to a casual observer.
Some people feel its necessary to hide their illness from others; smiling depression is a frightening example of concealment. A person could sink further into a depression without getting help, most of the time because of societal stigmatisation. It is important to recognise the symptoms of a mental illness and ask for help; talking about it with a trusted person such as your doctor, spouse, family member or friend is one of the first steps to getting help.
7 Cups is a free online counselling service that is available 24/7. You can use their services as much as you want and in turn you could also learn how to be a listener on the platform helping others who share your condition. Click here to visit 7 Cups. My listener handle is wishfulsea69.
A good many people who suffer from a mental illness rely on their spirituality to get them through the day. The bible is one book that has helped many people isolated by an illness that plagues them. If you would like to request prayer you can do so online at Crossroads; you can call 24/7 as well.
The mistreatment of people with mental illness
The cruel treatment of persons with a mental illness has not ceased to exist. Fortunately many people are speaking out and bringing awareness of the need to treat people humanely while they are ill. Bell Canada’s Lets Talk campaigns uses the help of celebrities to bring mass awareness and support of mental health programs in a kind and friendly manner. Education is an important aspect of breaking the stigmas attached to mental disorders and the #Lets Talk yearly campaign does it well.
It is called ableism when someone is discriminated against because of a disability; mental illnesses are disabilities in otherwise healthy people and in those with other conditions such as heart disease, multiple sclerosis and cancer. This negative point of view limits a person and their abilities from succeeding in the workplace, school and in personal life. This is discrimination like racism and sexism.
Worldwide between the 1930s and 1970s, people with mental illnesses were sterilised to prevent them from having children without their consent. This was part of what is called eugenics and it is a violation of human rights. These violations occurred in countries that are now considered leaders in human rights; it is surprising to learn of this kind or sordid past in places like Canada, Britain, and the United States.
News headlines such as:
- “Indigenous patients treated like animals” available at http://www.news.com.au/story
- “Mentally ill patients more likely to suffer violent crime than to commit it” available at http://treatmentonline.com/treatments.php
- “Abuse of mentally ill is reported in Turkey” available at http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/09/27/mews/turkey.php
- Most Canadians killed in police encounters since 2000 had mental health or substance abuse issues http://www.cbc.ca/news/investigates/most-canadians-killed-in-police-encounters-since-2000-had-mental-health-or-substance-abuse-issues-1.4602916
detail how mistreatment continues today. The good news is that the abuse is being reported and surely something good will come out these situations being talked about publicly.
Common stereotypes of the mentally ill
A lot of what we hear about mental illness both good and bad comes from media; news, movies, sports, and music play an important role in society. We may be tempted to equate the symptoms of an illness to bad behaviour. When we see celebrities acting out and people with depression being violent it it is difficult to know what to make of these situations.
People who suffer from a mental illness are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime rather than the perpetrator. However, there is evidence to suggest that antidepressants can increase suicidal and homicidal behaviours. The percentage of people who become more violent is small and many people report benefiting from taking the prescribed medicine.
Common misconceptions of the mentally ill:
- faking it
- addicted to medication
The truth about the mentally ill:
- highly intelligent
One in five people suffer from a mental illness; it is highly likely that you will be affected in someway. It could be you or a family member, a co-worker or a friend who is diagnosed with a treatable mental illness.
The importance of removing stereotypes
Because of the stigma associated with mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders many people don’t ask for help or keep their diagnosis a secret. This is very hard on a person to cope alone with serious symptoms that can be overwhelming.
It can be awkward if someone admits to you what diagnoses they have received but it need not be. There is no need to treat someone differently because of their mental status, be courteous and if you are a friend, the best thing you can do is listen. If you have a mental concern the best thing to do is to talk about it with your health practitioner, spiritual leader, and/or family and friends.