A recurring theme I heard when public speaking about mental illness was disbelief. There are a lot of people out there who question why so many people are being diagnosed with mental health issues. They believe our society has gotten weak and desperate for happy pills to make everything rosy. I disagree for many reasons. In the past people with mental health issues were hidden away in attics, lobotomized, locked in asylums and beaten to death. They were also ignored.

My mother’s father was a career Navy man. His work kept him away for months and longer. He was in the Pacific Ocean when my mother was born and didn’t even know she had been born until she was a few months old. A few years later my grandmother had a baby boy who came very early. He lived for only a few days. I can only imagine the emotions my grandmother felt when doctors told her that the Polio which she thought she had defeated had actually damaged her body so much that she should not have any more children. In the years that followed, my grandmother had a lot of accidents. She accidentally fell off a two story retaining wall on their San Francisco military base. She accidentally took entire bottles of pills. Nobody in the family talked about her accidents and doctors certainly didn’t question the accidents. My grandmother spent her life having anxiety attacks and battling depression. She spent her later years increasingly isolating herself from the world. She is now in a nursing home with a diagnosis of dementia. I can’t help but wonder if she wouldn’t have lived a happier life if only she had been given medication, and good therapy. I know it wouldn’t have stopped the dementia but I do believe she would have been lucid for longer. I think she would have been inspired to try and maintain her focus instead of reveling in the escapism of memory loss and confusion. I know my mother wouldn’t have felt so alone and helpless if she had been allowed to have a healthy mother.

The human mind is just as delicate as the human body. It requires care, compassion and frequently, help with healing. There have always been mental illnesses but we are just beginning to learn about how to treat them.

4 thoughts on “110817057601503912

  1. In the 12 years I have been doing community mental health work, I have seen the reduction of stigma, but not the extent that it should be. It should be assessed the same way any other physical condition is and treated w/the appropriate care. New medications have had profound effects on quality of life and more people should have the benefit of them.
    One of the saddest things though is that stigma inside of the system, the ‘us -them’ treatment of mental health employees, who themselves consider they are the worried well and take prozac, yet treat their clients as if they were somehow beneath them. We both know some of the most unhealthy people work in mental health, unfortunately. I was never shy, when appropriate, to let the people I worked with know I have taken medications at points in my life, that makes me human and addressing my problems effectively as well. I think the ‘us -them’ mentality in society is a huge problem that needs to be addressed for us to move to the next level of acceptance and remove the shame of treatment. And don’t think I didn’t call out people when they had that attitude!!!

  2. You nailed it right on the head, Cathy. With better treatments for mental illnesses and brain disorders, many more are living “normal” lives, including having children. And they are passing on this legacy. Sometimes it skips generations, sometimes a everyone within memory and in the present are ill or disordered.

    I talk about my son’s bipolar disorder all the time. I talk about it at work, all my friends know, and of course, my blog chronicals our adventures in Bipolarville. I even caught the attention of a couple of reporters from WBIR who wanted me to do interviews, but those never came to pass. It isn’t something to be ashamed of or hidden away. It should be regarded no differently than diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, etc. Those affected deserve the same care and compassion as any other person.

    But we are still a long way from where we need to be. Insurance companies still discriminate against mentally ill providing less coverage than for other physical illnesses. There is still stigma attached to mental illness, and while researchers are learning more every year, funds for research in mental illness seriously lag behind other illnesses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *