Last week I visited my fellow Astraea Press author Krysten Lindsay Hager’s blog and talked about the stigma associated with mental illness. That stigma has had a personal impact on me (read more about it in this post), but it’s also made me think a lot.
What do most people think of when they hear the words mental illness?
I think of my father and several other people I love. I think of the guy I used to see on the street who always wore a bathrobe and talked to himself. I think of psych wards, medication, and counseling. I think of psychiatric service dogs, case managers, and disability. I think of those who battle through the mental illness in order to live as normal a life as possible.
I also think of the people who suffer in silence. Those who are afraid to seek help or think they are beyond help. Those who pretend everything is fine when they are clearly suffering. Those who think they’re fine and don’t need help when they exhibit many signs of being miserable and chronically depressed.
The things in the previous paragraph always make me want to cry. A lot of those things have to do with the stigma of mental illness, but some of it is the mental illness itself. I have known several mentally ill people who thought they were fine, didn’t need help, etc. So they stopped taking their medication, stopped getting regular therapy, and in the result was that they stopped being stable. Each of them suffered horribly because they thought there was nothing wrong with them, even though they had been diagnosed with one mental illness or another and were being treated for it. Once they returned to their prescribed treatment, they improved and could live a fairly normal life again.
As you can see, so many things come to mind when I think of mental illness, but that’s because I’ve been around it my entire life. When there’s mental illness in your family, you learn a LOT.
Did you know…
…anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in the United States?
…depression is one of the most common and well-known mental illnesses?
…you’re more likely to be diagnosed with certain mental illnesses if a family member has been diagnosed with it?
…quite a few mentally ill people end up in jail or prison because of a lack of treatment?
…schizophrenia has its own stigma that makes it a diagnosis professionals are reluctant to give?
An estimated 43.7 million adults in the United States have some form of mental illness¹. That comes out at 18.6% of the adult population, yet mental illness still remains largely in the shadows. Compare that to autism, which an estimated 2% of the American children have², yet autism is regularly mentioned in mainstream media. Studies, organizations, and support groups abound for autism, as do blogs, magazines, and websites filled with information. Meanwhile 18.6% of the adult population is misunderstood, feels ignored, and suffers under a stigma that paradoxically lingers in an era when acceptance and awareness are major buzzwords.
So, in the name of awareness and acceptance, let’s talk. What comes to mind when you see or hear the words “mental illness”? Has your life ever been touched by mental illness?
Please share your thoughts in the comments section. If you want to contact me privately, you can do so here.
Note: All viewpoints are welcome, but keep your comments respectful and free of foul language. This is a family-friendly blog, and I’d like to keep it a safe place for open and honest discussion. Thanks!
1. National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d). Any mental illness (AMI) among adults. Retrieved February 21, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-mental-illness-ami-among-adults.shtml
2. Blumberg, S. J., Bramlett, M. D., Kogan, M. D., Schieve, L. A., Jones, J. R., and Lu, M. C. (2013, March 20). Changes in prevalence of parent-reported autism spectrum disorder in school-aged U.S. children: 2007 to 2011-2012. National Health Statistics Reports (65). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved February 21, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr065.pdf