BREAKING THE DEAFENING SILENCE blog #1
People keep quiet about mental illness. They don’t talk about their brother who hears voices, their mother who stays in bed because of her depression, the counting rituals they themselves do before they can leave their house, or their fear of leaving the safety of heir homes at all. But they should.
Scratch the surface and you will find that almost everyone has a relative or knows someone who has a mental illness. But, few speak out about it out of shame. There is still a terrible stigma surrounding menetal illness, which is reinforced by violent or comic media images.
So, our children become hidden victims. Afraid to speak about their illness, or unable to recognize he symptoms, they may deteriorate for years before getting treatment.
I speak out in an effort to try and de-stigmatize mental illness. People need to be educated. Teachers need to be educated.
Students need to be sensitized to the pain caused by ridiculing and bullying someone who has a mental illness.
Students need to learn the importance of seeking early treatment for serious mental illnesses such as major depression, bi-polar illness, schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Even in Middle School students should be taught that;
- Mental illness is a biologically based illness
- A nobody’s fault illness
- They need to know some warning signs of mental illness
- they should know that it is treatable with medication and therapy.
- They should be told where to turn to for help and support.
- They should be taught the stigmatizing words associated with mental illness and there should be a duscussion on the negative impact thereof.
- If their teacher asks them which words they associate with this type of illness, they will probably say; Manic, lunatic, crazy, schizo, nut, psychotic, psycho and others.
- Their teacher should ask them how they would feel if someone called them any of those words.
- The media and movies usually portray people with a mental illness as violent. BUT, there is violence all around us … one only needs to watch the news or read a newspaper – actually, people with mental illness are no more violent than people in the general population but they are very often victims of violence
- Ignorance of something is often frightening and most people know very little about mental illness.
This is blog #1 in a series on the subject of Breaking the Deafening Silence.