May is National Mental Health Awareness month.
Mental Illness is grossly misunderstood. Many people go by what they have heard on television or seen in movies, or by a neighbor’s grandparent, uncle or distant cousin. You might be amazed at how many people you know who have struggled with a mental illness. One in 4 (25%) people in the United States deal with a mental illness every year.(NAMI.org)
A mental illness is not just “crazy” people. Some crazy people don’t have a mental illness, just extreme beliefs. One of the most popular first films about mental illness is “One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest.” I also saw one from 1948 called “The Snake Pit” where a house wife was hospitalized due to a mental break down. Which today we might just call “Monday.” 😉
The reality of mental illness is a long way’s from the media. I had a client fear telling people she had bipolar disorder because recently a grandmother had killed her grandchildren and the news announced that she had bipolar. She feared that people would think she was dangerous. Even clients I have worked with who have been diagnosed with a disorder for years, do not really understand it. It’s part of my job to help them understand the disorder, how it works and impacts them, and what they can do to manage it effectively.
Education is the key to control and compassion.
Mental Illness is any diagnosable disorder in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). These include depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress, ADHD, autism, schizophrenia and many more. Some need medication, some don’t. ALL of them run on a scale from mild to severe.
If you don’t understand, have never had experience with, or encounter someone with a mental illness, don’t trust your judgement on this. Research it and get informed. We get incorrect, skewed, and misrepresented information from too many places. Also, don’t assume that every person who has PTSD will be just like your nephew after he returned from the war. Everyone’s experience with mental illness is unique.
Here are some sites to get information on some common mental illnesses:
You can also contact your local NAMI chapter for community resources and information.