Should having a mental illness make you feel guilty?

A psychiatrist asked a young woman in a psychiatric hospital; ‘Does having a mental illness make you feel guilty?’

‘Yes,’ was her surprising reply. ‘Because my schizophrenia has affected and even hurt my parents, my friends and my brothers. I feel terrible when I see my parents with that hurt look on their faces whenever they see me struggling with my voices.’

This woman has to figure out whether her guilt is appropriate or not. Her psychiatrist said; ‘Ask yourself whether you are truly responsible for your condition. The answer should be NO because nobody is responsible for having a mental illness. Neither are you responsible for other people’s reactions toward your illness. You have done nothing wrong. If you had diabetes or cancer, people would never think of blaming you, now would they? You need help in getting rid of your guilt feelings. Even if someone is born with, or develops a mental illness, it is not something he/she did purposefully. It would be wrong’ totally out of line, to take your parents’ money and blow it on drink, drugs or even frivolous items, but having an illness is not right or wrong.’

At the psychiatrist’s bidding, the young woman asked herself whether she had done everything she could possibly do to co-operate with her therapists and whether guilt serves any positive purpose.

It is preferable to get on with one’s life because negative, guilty feelings lead to inappropriate levels of shame and self-loathing. Nobody is perfect so there is no need to be so hard on herself. Her doctor suggested that she take part in positive activities.

A wish changes nothing

A decision changes everything.

3 thoughts on “Should having a mental illness make you feel guilty?

  1. Mary Jadwisiak

    There is more to getting well from mental illness than positive activities, but it’s a good start. Recovery from mental illness requires personal responsibility and self determination. Taking control of our illness and it’s treatment are the first step in reaching recovery. Guilt can be connected to self stigma. Given all the messages one receives about mental illness it’s no wonder.


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