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.