In my previous two articles, I mentioned how to be physically ill is seen as normal. Someone could have an illness, and recover from it, and no one really cares, as long as the person gets to feeling better. However, the mentally ill are not seen as treatable. They have had negative names given to them, and have to hide their illnesses from people, even sometimes their own family members.
Many know the negativity associated with having a mental illness. Why is there a stigma for the mentally ill but not the physically ill?
A stigma is something negative that a person perceives about another person. There are those who have mental illness that are not allowed to find decent employment or have a decent social life. They can suffer from low self-esteem, making their illness even worse.
Those who suffer may have to pay more for medications, treatments, and therapies to help them recover. Those who do not have mental illness may still have to pay to have repairs done to personal property because of robberies or crimes because of a person with mental illness committing a crime to help either pay for their drugs or illegal reasons.
Those who are suffering, and cannot afford their drugs, or are depressed because of having to take medications, may end up using hard drugs, such as LSD or cocaine. They may take to abusing alcohol or become addicted to overeating, smoking, or other abuses.
There are many illnesses which are listed in the DSM-IV-TR (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Text Revision, Edition Four), which need medication and therapy to help treat them. Included are ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol and drug abuse, and many more. There are many people around the world taking medication for illnesses listed in the DSM-IV-TR, and many are yet not taking medications or treatments due to the stigma of mental illnesses.
How can we help eliminate the stigma of mental illness?
First, we must recognize that mental illness, while it can be more dangerous than a physical illness, is just that—an illness. Those who suffer from a mental illness are not mentally deficient in their mental capacity; they just have had a chemical imbalance or a severe head injury which hinders their ability to function normally in a certain part of a mental ability of function.
For instance, those who have depression, are not considered to be insane, and are usually prescribed medications and take psychotherapeutic treatments to help them recover. However, those who do take medications and treatments for depression are afraid to mention that to people because they do not want to be perceived of as mentally unstable or mentally deficient.
There are those who suffer from such things as Bipolar Disorder, with its dual polarity of feelings, one time very happy, euphoric people can suddenly become very lethargic, also are treated with medication and therapy. But they are not considered mentally deficient either, but are thought of as mentally unstable too.
Included in this list are those who suffer from schizophrenia, and they also are treated with medications and treatments. While there are those levels and people who do have schizophrenia, which are more severe than the usual schizophrenia, and do need to be either institutionalized or helped throughout the day with their everyday chores, many who have schizophrenia can be treated successfully and do have a pretty normal lifestyle.
Those who suffer from mental illness are not mentally deficient. Most surely know this, in their heart of hearts, that just because a person has a mental illness that they are not incoherent, either in sum or in part. If a person has a severe case of double pneumonia, we do not say that they lack lungs, or that their lungs have been deficient since their birth and they should be put into a residential care facility or something of that effect. We take the person to the hospital, get them treatments and medications, and try to help them recover. While most do recover from such things as this, they usually do come home with still a bit of recovery left to do.
It should be the same with the mentally ill. If they are available to come home (many do stay home, and just have visits with their psychiatrist and take their medication), and stay on their medical plan, they are usually just as unnoticed as a person who has came home from the hospital with a physical sickness. There may still be some lingering aspects, but as long as medication is taken, and the patient takes care of themselves, a lot of the visible effects are gone.
Many of those who do have mental illness, do suffer alone, or suffer only with their immediate family members. Those who do not have anyone to help them may take to the streets, or commit crimes in order to escape from some of their issues. While crime is still incredibly horrible and wrong, and living on the streets is not good either, a person feeling like they cannot receive help is very wrong. There are those who do not know that such things as cheaper medications are available, or medications for those who cannot afford them at all are also available. Medical doctors and psychiatrists would be able to help a person who is seeking for such help. It is available, the help is out there, yet many do not know how to seek for the help they may need. It is not helping matters, then, when groups of people make a person feel that they have done something wrong to get a mental illness. It does not happen that way, and those who suffer must be treated with respect, no matter whom they are. Everyone must be able to get the help they need, and they must not be afraid to ask for and seek this help.
Secondly, people must be more willing to talk about how they feel to others, and those who are listening must not be judgmental or make the person out to be mentally deficient if they seem to be having problems with a mental illness. A person seeking help for a mental illness is stronger than those who do not, because they know the risk of asking for help from others who may not have the illness.
This would go a great way in helping a person recover, if they feel that there is someone there to talk to them, and someone to try and help them. In today’s world, we are always ready to rush away from each other, while just gleaming the conversation for what we need to help us in our day to day needs. Maybe it is a better thing to listen to each other more, and appreciate each individual for an being individual. Not every single person with the flu speaks for the entire “flu population”, and not everyone who has a mental illness speaks for those who suffer from mental illnesses. But when someone speaks, we should listen.
I would like to thank those of you who have read any of the three (or all of the three) articles I have written. I sincerely hope you enjoyed them, and I would like to close this series of articles the way I closed the last one. Here is hoping the best of mental and physical health for you and all the ones you love.
About the author: Clyde H. Hedgcoth, Jr., has a Masters degree in Education, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, as a third year resident/student.