- Do you know that only one lesson on mental illness could make all the difference to young people whose lives have been thrown tragically off course by no fault brain disorders such as:
- Bipolar Disorder
- OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and Panic disorder?
The Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Illness states that nearly two-thirds of all people with diagnosable mental disorders do not seek treatment.
Innovative lessons can put a human face on mental illness and confront the myths that reinforce the silence. Students learn that mental illness has never been more treatable than today. They can learn to watch for the warning signs of a mental illness and how to overcome the stigma surrounding it. Everybody should hear the following:- Mental illness is nobody’s fault. No one can cause a mental illness. Parents are NOT to blame.
Lorraine Kaplan’s son was smart. At 17, he had top grades, was a debater as well as a top trombonist in his school. But, seemingly overnight, he became obsessive and then began hallucinating. ‘The doctor told us that he had schizophrenia and that we would be walking on eggshells for the rest of our lives,’ said Lorraine. ‘He added: ‘I am going to give you some good advice too. Don’t tell anyone.’ So, for ten years they didn’t tell anybody as the stigma seemed too much to manage. One day, they realized how many people were in the same position and that contributing to the silence was not the way to go about changing things. So, Lorraine Kaplan became a vocal advocate, hoping to change things for the next generation, trying to teach that a mental illness is treatable.
Four of the top ten causes of lifetime disability are severe mental illness. At any point in time, one in every ten adolescents are affected by serious emotional disturbances according to the Academy of Child ad Adolescent Psychiatry in the USA. Of those needing treatment, less than one in five will receive it. Adolescents experiencing a mental illness often turn to drugs or alcohol, or self-medicate.
HAVE YOUR CHILDREN EVER BEEN TAUGHT ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS IN SCHOOL ? IF NOT, MAYBE IT’S TIME TO START PROGRAMS OF THIS KIND?
When my friend was in trouble, I spent a whole lot of time thinking and wondering how I could help her and her immediate family. I cooked for us and for her, but how could I tell her that that I wanted to help without offending her? So, I spent time trying to solve my problem and this is what I came up with. I prepared some questions to use when I next saw her and here are some I came up with.
Has your cleaner returned from her vacation yet? If not, allow me to send mine over just this once.
I have so much food left over from lunch today. I would like you to have it.
I have no idea how you are feeling but I want you to know that I will always be there for you when you feel like talking.
I am not busy today so if you need help folding your laundry, do let me know.
Tell me one day what it’s like to be ‘you’ for 24 hours. I want to know.
I bought flowers to cheer you up. Is it okay to bring them over and put them in a vase?
They were a happy family with a gifted daughter, but by the time she reached the higher grades, there were signs that everything was not quite as it seemed. She stopped worrying about her appearance, refused to attend a summer camp even though she had gone happily every year previously. She spent a lot of time alone in her bedroom and had trouble sleeping. This girl had been a popular, social child but now, she no longer wanted to spend time with her friends and her grades went down. When friends called, she seldom agreed to talk to them. One day, she told her parents tearfully that she was hearing voices and that somebody was out to get her. Her parents, who are friends of mine, told me later that they felt as though a bomb had been dropped onto their family. They made an appointment to see a psychiatrist.
That was the beginning. They also made a point of speaking to the school counselor to find out whether any of their daughter’s teachers or fellow students had noticed changes in her behavior. They also make a point of asking her friends whether they had been aware of changes and if so, which of her behaviors seemed the most serious. Did they ever think of speaking to her parents or didn’t they know how to approach this difficult subject. Did they wonder how her family must have felt? Did they think that going to a psychiatrist would help? Did they think that anybody was to blame – their friend’s parents, or even themselves? In retrospect, they were asked what they thought they could have or should have done – if anything.
A mental illness is not easy to spot and is often mistaken for drug or alcohol abuse and someone suffering from a mental illness often uses these substances to relieve their symptoms. But, if a teacher or a student’s friend is concerned about his/her behavior, it is essential to pass on this information to an adult – any adult.
What we all need to remember at all times is that a mental illness is a physical illness – something in the chemistry or structure of a person’s brain has gone wrong so there is need for compassion to be shown and no need for stigma at all.;
Sanity is something that we all take for granted and I sometimes think that sanity is lost on the sane. When my son lost his sanity, it was difficult to grasp that this had occurred, could have occurred, but it did and we all grieved for his loss.
When bizarre behavior once limited to adolescents, extreme weight loss, public temper tantrums and exhibitionism are splashed across the front pages of leading newspapers and glossy magazines, we now know that very often this behavior is the start of a mental illness.
If we could break the silence and get a program including mental illness into our school system, teachers might be able to identify the first signs in their students and guide them toward the a place where whey can get the help they so badly need.
“Do you know that I suffer from a mental illnes?” Jim asked his co-worker.
“No kidding. Me too.”
The two of them stared at one another. Both of them were suffering from brain diseases, both aware of the fact that there are many. . . anxiety disorders, post traumatic stress disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, panic disorders, social anxiety disorders, phobias, depression, bipolar disorders, kleptomania, addictions like compulsive gambling, for example as well as paranoia.
I hope there will come a time when we will all feel free to speak out freely. By not doing so, by hiding in the closet, parents tend to make their children feel as if they have done something wrong instead of simply ‘having an illness.’ If it had been diabetes, they would not have hesitated to tell their friends and acquaintances. The result is that parents themselves are responsible for keeping the stigma growing.
SO, LET’S BREAK THAT DEAFENING SILENCE, NOW !