Mental Health Stigma Kills People

I have anxiety, but I am not crazy.

People with anxiety often seem crazy.  When their issues are not addressed, they can become altogether lost in their illness.   “Crippled” is the best word.

They are unable to focus, forgetful, rude at times, difficult to “read” and consumed with fear and doubt.  They are physically on the verge of a meltdown every other moment.  And, everyone around them is just telling them to chill out, and calm down.  Because these people don’t understand that it is often our physical symptoms that set everything into motion.

Often, when I am beginning to feel anxious it starts in my stomach and moves toward my knees.  This sense of fear and panic starts up in my gut close to 10 times a day. Unfortunately, because my alarm system is a bit testy and “off”, my instinctual reaction is to listen to my stomach (wouldn’t you?), which leads me to start looking all around me for danger.  Danger that isn’t there.  That’s why I become suddenly consumed with fear about things that everyone around me can’t understand.

But, I have learned how to quell it before it gets out of control. I can acknowledge and allow it to pass.  Most of the time.

But, that’s the hard part with mental illness.  You have to stay on top of it in a way that makes it every bit as time consuming and expensive as any other chronic illness. If you aren’t careful, you can become sucked in totally by this malfunction in your brain.  An illness like this can take lives.  Even if those people don’t choose to kill themselves (which a lot of them do), they are also more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors,  get taken advantage of and be abused or treated poorly.  All of which is going to amount to your confidence being in the absolute and total shitter.

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It’s Genetic and Passed through Families

If you suffer from any number of mental illnesses, or disorders, etc. then you likely have a mother or father with this exact same disorder who (if not treated) only exacerbates it in every way possible.  They either ignore it totally or become hyperfocused.  There’s always an inappropriate boundary setting.

It’s a very scary world for kids with untreated mental health issues. It is a world that they should not have to live in.  There should be no stigma related to taking medication for mental disorders.  It’s insane to me that there is.  If I have diabetes, I take my insulin.  I have cancer, chemo wreaks havoc on my body in order ro, hopefully, save me.  Extreme lengths are taken as far as plastic surgery, for goodness sake.  But, people are sitting around wondering if we really need our medicine or if we are making it up.  That’s still the reality that we live in.  And, that is a damn shame.

I know all about the type of problems that can unfold when undiagnosed mental health sufferers raise children.  I lived it. This is NOT to throw myself a pity party BUT to highlight how incredibly important mental health awareness is for kids and parents.

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Why wouldn’t we treat our children?

I am not a pill pusher and I despise the idea of putting my kids on drugs. I am hesitant to give them too much kids’ ibuprofen.

But, if after having talked to at least 3 (or 30, depending on how OCD I am feeling that month) doctors about the options and their recommendations I would decide (in a heartbeat) to medicate my child.  If they recommended some other therapy – speech, occupational, physical, etc. _ then I would do that without a second thought. In addition, if an educator tells me something about my kids I am going to believe it until I have a really good reason not to.  I know that most good doctors, or good educators, are going to at least attempt to help an earnest parent looking for honest opinions.

 

There are many parents who feel a protective instinct not to make the child feel “different.” We don’t want to “label” our kids, but sometimes a label is the best thing that a kid can have. They can get treatment, learn how to cope, find friends with similar issues, feel validated….

It’s crazy and sad that so many people die from the consequences of their mental illnesses, but we attribute it to a car accident or a junkie OD. When we trace it back, the cause of death is, almost 100 % of the time, undiagnosed, or poorly managed, mental illness or some other neurological issue.

If I can reduce the odds that my kids will engage in risky behaviors, or get into bad relationships, or drop out of school, or commit suicide… then I am damn sure going to to do whatever I need to do.

When we adults start talking to kids about mental health issues we give them the opportunity to nip, what will grow into a very nasty and thorny rose bush, in the bud.

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So, if you suffer from mental illness, will you please stand up…?

You don’t have to run out and take out an ad in the paper.  Or even write a blog about it. I am just asking you guys to mention it at lunch with the coworker that you trust. Bring it up when it is relevant to a conversation, rather than finding a way to avoid it.

Don’t hide it like you have some sort of horrific, infectious disease.  Mental illness is actually far more common than you may think.  One in four adults experience mental illness in a year.  (nami.org)

 

There is a long history  of mistreating, misdiagnosing or just ignoring mental illness, autism, learning disabilities and more.

Why?  Because we, the sufferers, are allowing the stigma to exist. In order to break that stigma and change the stereotypes we have to step out of the proverbial shadows.  That way, everyone can see that even the nicest, smartest, most interesting and kind people in the world have mental health issues.

Lawyers and doctors and teachers and writers and accountants and veterinarians and many counselors and therapists, themselves, are silently kicking the ass of a nasty and painful disorder. They are actually stronger than you would ever believe, because unless you know them well, you probably would never guess.

There are, unfortunately, other mental illness sufferers who are not as lucky.  They may have been born without means, in a country with no mental healthcare, or dealt with abuse.  That is why homelessness is such an issue with the mentally ill.  Those poverty stricken people, more than anyone, need help.

This is a real health issue and there is nothing funny about it.

We can’t just “get over it.”

 

 

For more information, check out these helpful links:
NAMI.org

Mentalhealth.gov

 

Feature Photo: Flickr, Holly Ray

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