The Hidden Truth

It is easier for the general public not to dwell on the issue of mental illness as it is upsetting. People who are diagnosed with one of the mental illnesses are usually the VERY LAST to say anything at all about it as most are ashamed to speak out. Do you know that according to the World Health Organization, there are about 450 million people suffering from a mental disorder right this minute?

It is far more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease. One in four people who visit a general practitioner about a minor ailment are suffering from a mental illness but most are neither diagnosed nor treated.

Mental illness is not a character flaw and these people are neither weak nor unintelligent. Willpower alone cannot help overcome it. It’s no good telling someone to ‘get over it.’ I said that once to my son and I felt so bad later. He’d tried my patience to the very limit and I was furious. His reply; “A person cannot get over a mental illness Mom.” I apologized profusely but one cannot retract words.

My wish is that we all show more compassion as these people are struggling; really struggling. Find ways to give them some support. Because this illness is far from rare, it should be dealt with openly with an emphasis on kindness and acceptance.

The human brain is still a mystery and scientists and researchers have yet to discover how it works. Even in this day and age, treatment is problematic. There are no blood tests to undergo, no x-rays nor CT scans; devices which are used as definitive evidence that the ill person is suffering from a certain disease. A psychiatist has to rely on observation and the patient’s description of his/her symptoms which is far from a perfect way of making a diagnosis, isn’t it? I found it pretty shocking on discovering that my son was diagnosed this way. It seemed so ‘imperfect’ somehow. So many times David told his doctor about things that were not true, from our point of view, and we lived with him in the same house – but he did not want us to be present at his therapy sessions so we were unable to give his doctor what we thought was the right perspective.

Mental illness is disabling. It didn’t only affect our son. It affected the lives of our whole family and also of friends and neighbors too.  It hindered David’s ability to perform ordinary everyday tasks. People suffering from other disabling diseases that are physical, bring out the sympathy in people – not so mental illness.


2 thoughts on “The Hidden Truth

  1. robyn wheeler

    Hi Jill,
    I agree with your article whole-heartedly. And since I’ve announced my illness, I’ve learned something that escaped me previously. When “normal” people call those with mental illness derogatory names like psycho, wacko, crazy and the like, those with undiagnosed mental illness will not be willing to come out and get treatment. Those who are not mentally ill, cannot understand and therefore have little compassion or empathy for those who do. Once society as a whole, realizes that the mentally ill didn’t ask for the disorder nor do they want it or like it, maybe then we can help those who really need it the most. Thanks for your post.

  2. Pamela Spiro Wagner

    Ever since the memoir my twin sister and I wrote, in 2005, DIVIDED MINDS out, and I started doing public speaking, I have lost all or most of my shame and reluctance about speaking out. In fact, I tell it like it is to a lot of people who likely would not have wanted to know if given their preference. Sometimes I see the reaction on their faces with a sinking heart: fear, first of all, mixed with disbelief, then even a little anger as if I am forcing something very unpleasant on their consciousness, as if I have spoiled their day. It doesn’t always happen this way. Once upon a time, esp. if this is after I have spoken to a sympathetic audience, primed to want my message, people are thrilled to meet and talk with me about their own experiences and how much hope my mere presence on the stage gives them that things might go better for their loved ones or themselves. On the other hand, my illness is not fully under control, and i experience serious exacerbations, unpredictablly, from time to time, though these seem to be twice a year. THey are bad enough to require hosppitalization. And there? IT is in a hospital, at least, in CT’s hospitals, where you know how bad it really is to have an MI diagnosis. Because that is where the stigma and degrading treatment is the worst, rather than the best. I have never been treated more like an animal than in CTs most posh and well known hospitals!


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