No, what’s YOUR problem?

Stigma by the Numbers
People with mental illnesses face many battles as they try to cope with the various illnesses trying to take over their lives, not the least of these is the stigma of having to live with something that they have absolutely no control over. Think about how unfair it is to be judged for something that you have nothing to do with: it’s like being called a bad person by virtue of your skin colour or your sex. While we obviously try to not tolerate these prejudices in an ‘enlightened’ society, they nevertheless continue to take place every day. People with mental illnesses face the harsh judgements of people who have medieval understandings of the realities of the illnesses and their treatments.

We see this lack of knowledge when we hear people speak so carelessly about mental illness: how someone is ‘depressed’ because their team lost, or someone has a ‘split-personality’ and must be schizophrenic. What they don’t realize is that true depression is a serious illness that can, if left untreated, lead to death, and that schizophrenia has absolutely nothing to do with ‘split personalities’; that is a myth perpetuated by bad movies and an ill-informed media.How Misunderstood Mental Illness is in America

When dealing with issues such as suicidal ideation or serious suicidal states it must be made clear that these acts are not done merely to attract the attention of others. When someone only wants the attention of others they will ‘grandstand’, declaring their intentions in such a way as to attract that attention, usually before an actual or serious attempt is made. However, an attempt at suicide, regardless of whether it fails or not, is a call for help that should never be ignored.

Stigma can only be defeated when we answer ignorance with reason, demonstrating that people with mental illnesses have as much to contribute to society as anyone else.

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5 Responses to “No, what’s YOUR problem?”

  1. uacommunicationresearch Says:

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  2. Bipolar Disorder Says:

    WOW, those statistics are frightening!

  3. Sharp Little Pencil Says:

    Hey, I’m manic depressive (I always say “bipolar sounds like I live half the year with Santa Claus.”) and have PTSD. I’m loads of fun, take my meds, stay home only on super-depressed days (I am prone to crying on those days and it only creates upset for others). But I am OUT OF THE CLOSET to my church, my friends, my blog, my family (the bipolar is inherited; the PTSD from sexual abuse by my dad, which I’m out about, too).

    My motto: No Shame, No Blame. I let people know my mental health status all the time so they will see they don’t have to be scared, I’m cool, I’m self-educated, I see a therapist… and I have helped others be more comfortable with their own “shit” because of it. A couple have sought therapy to deal with depression after hearing from their families and bosses, “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

    I tell them: “It’s not a sin to be born without bootstraps.”

    Peter, thanks so much for posting these articles. The real statistics on how many folks have clinical depression and/or PTSD would frighten mostly the people who have those conditions… Amy

  4. Pierre-A. Dablemont (@padablemont) Says:

    Seeing these scary statistics, I’m now sure our society isn’t as civilized as it claims to be. Ignorance is an everyday pain leading to fear and rejection.

    Educating people on mental illnesses could, in my opinion, greatly improve the situation. The more you know, the more you understand, the less you fear. But it seems helping people with mental illnesses improve their quality of life is not a priority in our world.

  5. aufzuleiden Says:

    Thanks for the comment Pierre; as for our being “civilized” – well, that’s definitely a debatable thing – something (perhaps) worth blogging about (perhaps here …). I would argue, perhaps, that one of the tests that we might apply – to see what level we are at as a civilization as a whole – is the way the arts are received. Unfortunately, this would likely support your assertion that we are in trouble given that in the richest nation in the world – the United States – the arts are viewed, it would seem, with a level of contempt and total disregard rather than as something that enriches the lives of all members of society. People, I am convinced, only speak of elitism in the arts because we – as artists – allow it to happen. We create the elitism in our own work, creating a separation between what we do and what the public is able to “consume” (though I’m not saying we should “dumb down” our work – far be it! I’m saying we need to be able to approach our audiences with the confidence that they will have already been exposed to the fundamentals of the repertoire/literature/whatever, so that we’re not reinventing the wheel with every new work). When a culture does not respect the arts, when it does not have time for the “humanities” one must ask the question “what are they doing instead?” The answer, in the case of the 20th and 21st century “modern man” is the “business of war”: war has been made the priority of life – just think of the number of businesses that are dedicated to the advancement of war, to the making of weapons and things that will, ultimately, destroy rather than edify. Is it any wonder that more people are experiencing mental illnesses when the natural state of mankind is to be creative, to love their fellow man, rather than be in a constant state of war? I am quite convinced that our penchant for maintaining a steady state of conflict has greatly contributed to the increased level of mental illness in the western world and the lack of understanding stems, in a large part, from the insensitivity that comes from people who are consumed with the idea that we should “take care of ourselves – pull yourself up by the bootstraps and just go” – that attitude is such a load of crap, it does much more harm than good. We are social creatures – me MUST rely on others for assistance – especially when it comes to our mental health.

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