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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

News Flash: Mental Illness Kills

Time to remove stigma, misunderstanding, and mystique from an illness that changes the exchanges of vital chemicals in the brain. Its devastating enough to live with a diagnosis of liver disease, cancer, or diabetes, but when the organ that goes into failure is also the one that directs decision making; the consequences can be devastating.

Mental illness is not an embarrassing condition that weak people are susceptable to. In my experience, its often particularily gifted people who have to learn to live fully with the additional reality of these form of illnesses. Nor is it that people "choose" the illness. (well, except for some criminals who see claiming the status as their best option).

As with any other malady, there are medical treatment options. Some are effective immediately, some require "tweaking" over time, some are ineffective. Just like cancer.

Sometimes, people die.

Allow that to be an oppurtunity to bring the truth about mental illness into the light. Use it to educate those fortunate enough to not know the reality of it firsthand. Ask the question: how best can we be helpful to people who suffer? Don't sit back in judgement or look for someone, or something to blame, any more than you would the victem of heart failure. Don't bother to sit up a little higher in your self-righteous pharisee-ism, grateful that you're not an embarrassment to your loved ones.

Maybe if we gain some perspective and understanding, we'll all become part of the solution for the other zillions of people who are currently suffering... right under our noses. This is not an illness that will go away because we refuse to acknowledge it. This is not an illness that has to end in tragedy.

The tragedy is undeniable, but it need not be served with a side dish of shame.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes and Yes! Well said Joyce.
-Heather

Anonymous said...

You woke up on a mission this morning, didn't you!?!?! Love it.
-Heather

deb said...

I wrote about this awhile ago and it's so true, mental illness kills people. It's not just a matter of pulling up your socks, it's a complex problem that requires complex treatment.

Heather said...

I can vouch for that. My husband is one of those it very nearly killed.

it's a gong show... said...

Amen Joyce! People need to have compassion and realize that mental illness is as, if not more, ugly than terminal cancer. Would we scoff at those dieing of that? I think not. And the mindset that lack of faith is a cause of someone not being healed by of this atrocious disease is a bunch of bullshit!

QueenHeroical said...

I come for a long line of the mentally ill, as do my children ... can I say ... I'm honoured by them all ... and those to come.

Krina

polarpegs said...

Joyce this hits home as it does with so many. I think mental illness touches more families than any other disease or disorder because it is so varied.

I guess my only wince was this quote
"except for some criminals who see claiming the status as their best option"

I have a family member who is now considered a criminal because of his mental illness. He broke the law and the courts chose not to look at his mental disease at all. He is now in jail and is without sufficient medical care for what I feel is an ongoing untreated and unfulfilled diagonosis. The court only saw a snapshot of his life while his family can see his whole life and the illness that accompanies it.

Thank you for this post though. I have been trying to work on my own post around this whole issue but the situation is much too sensitive right now to approach on the internet.

Anonymous said...

Joyce,
We come from a religious tradition of blaming the devil for mental illness. And our church (I mean the broader community to which we belonged) in a sense prejudged those who struggled, because we blamed them.
Sometimes I used to wonder...with our lives so seeped in religion and all of its perfectly black and white logic, the threat of the bleak everafter..etc...I think religion in that sense, made it much worse for those folks in our local Mennonite community that were clearly battling demons bigger than themselves.
It's not an easy topic, because maybe somewhere deep, we still think...then what the heck was the cross for? If not to deliver us??
I don't know...I'm just thinking out loud here.
I know the Sunday School answers to all of my questions, but sometimes that doesn't seem like enough.
I wish we were all face to face.
Thinking of you all,
Joanne

Danielle B. said...

It's odd that I should read this today. In my Developmental Psychology class we just discussed the topic of teen suicides and how difficult it is to determine between 'teenage angst' and the many forms that mental disorders can take at this young age...it is during adolescence that those with a 'pre-dispostion' towards many of the disorders..including schizophrenia...will experience the symptoms...often misdiagnosed as 'just a phase'. At anyrate, I am glad I read this today...as in the next two weeks, in my Intro Psy class we will be discussing Mental Disorders and later their 'therapies' and I believe that you are correct, and it is not talked about enough and we need to have more awareness about it...I begin that education in my classroom...sometimes that is not enough, but it is a start.

Joyce said...

Heather- woke up and made preps to go to the funeral of a family member recently deceased due to his mental illness. Yes, and on a mission!

Deb- thank you for those words, "complex problem for a complex issue.". Precisely.

Heather- I read that on your blog and I respect you so much for being so vulnerable with it. Its just the truth though, and we need to bring it into the light. thanks

B- Healing is another topic that I could post about a great deal. And not in a cynical way. I respect people who hold out for healing (in some ways) but we need a balance of education, treatment, and wisdom.

Krina- how refreshing. And wise.

PP- I'm glad you said that here. And I apologize for the insensitivity. I was referring to a narrow margin of people, and I did so without fleshing it out or putting much thought into it, since I don't have firsthand experience in that context myself. What a nasty feeling of powerlessness. And yes, people do things in states of their illness that need to be examined in context.

Joanne- black and white can be tidy, but dangerous.
When I first learned of ___'s untimely suicidal death, I asked a lot of heart questions. Like- if they were believing for healing, why didn't God just play along and perform a miracle? But I see the cross as redeeming in so much of a bigger way when I'm thinking clearly. ___'s illness killed him. God is good. God said- In this world you will have trouble. Another one of the simplicities that we were taught is that "Jesus is the answer". But because our pain and struggles never went away, we assumed it was because we weren't "doing something right" in the eyes of God. Well, THATS WHAT THE CROSS IS FOR. Because: We can't do it right, and we are not required to. REST. TRUST.
____ is at rest now. God is not disappointed in him.

Did the sunday school answers ever give you peace? or did you feel like you just weren't getting something, and you had better just play along?
Those answers were "too much" in a way, because they limit God's largeness, his grace, and what it actually means to trust him. If God was really so intimidating, would we call him a shepherd? Feel safe with him? (I think I'm rambling now, and I've still not answered your questions. I think its great fodder for another post. One in shades of grey...)
I love you, JOanne, I'm so glad you've come around.

Danielle- I think you've identified one of the biggies for people who don't recognize mental illness as "disease". There is not a blood test,or specific medical test to verify mental diagnoses. They are diagnosed based on the symptoms. Well, we all are nutty in one or more ways, so its a stretch for some people to imagine that we're not just talking about a bunch of spoiled brats who can't take responsibility for their own choices, their own destinies.

However, if you've had firsthand experience watching someone you love suffer, your perspective changes drastically.

'nuff said.
for now.

polarpegs said...

Joyce
I took no real offense because I have been around here long enough to know your heart to be tender and true. It just hit home because of the reality of my situation with my loved one.
It is easy to make those assessments because unfortunately many people try to use mental disorders as a way out from their wrongdoings. In our family's situation we have never said that our loved one shouldn't be held accountable for his actions we just all believe that him spending years on end in facility where his disease goes untreated and largely undiagnosed serves no purpose to anyone.
It is also important to note that pedophilia and sociopathic disorders are NOT mental illnesses in my opinion.
One more thing...
I have a friend who have seen the depths of despair from living with bipolar affective disorder. He has been for several years in what I call remission (although eh doesnt define it that way) He is not on medication but has learned to understand his own body and knows his own triggers ie. health, nutrition & proper rest. He has written an online book called the Bipolar Guide. I have to admit I haven't read it but I recommend this site to anyone interested in pursuing more knowledge in this area.

http://www.thebipolarguide.com/index.html

Joyce once again thank you for your heart and you voice in this issue. You have blessed me with your words and give me courage to speak my own.

All the best my sister friend

Anonymous said...

Oh Joyce how you touched my heart with this post....you truly did hit the nail on the head....anyone who's ever been depressed or struggled with it knows that you would do anything to just be/feel "normal" again....nobody wants to live like that....thank goodness modern science has come up with many effective medications that work...unfortunatley not for all...so like cancer, there are survivers and then there are people who succumb to the disease...thanks again for your marvelous insight...Lindalew

Shelley said...

I appreciate this post. MI affects so many people, and it is important to acknowledge the danger.