Mental Illness and what we as society can do to make it bearable

Memba Ben By Memba Ben, 22nd Mar 2016 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Society & Issues

Today we speak of mental illness and why society has a lack of knowledge and understanding when it comes to dealing with the matter.

The MelanKoliK AlkoholiK on Mental Health

Before I begin the article, I would like to formally apologize if you feel I have insulted anyone with the contents of this article. I wanted to write it from the perspective of the general public due to it not being nearly spoken about even though it is just as important as the viewpoint of people who suffer from mental illness as the public are supposed to be their help in their time of need but just do not know or understand how to help. Should you feel insulted, please let me know as to how I insulted. Hope you enjoy and thank you for reading.

A mental Illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feelings, moods and ability to socialize or relate to other people. Thousands (if not millions) of people are affected by such illnesses and while some have the ability to mask their shortcomings and continue on with their daily lives, most are unable to. Often, people who are affected by mental illness are viewed as eccentric, aloof, cold, and many other adjectives with negative connotations and people who are suffering from a mental illness are also unable to address such comments due to their inability to interact with people in what is considered a normal manner. In essence, people who are considered part of “normal” society are adding on to their problems with the general agreement to shun them out of society. But why is it that people in everyday society act this way?

With all problem-solving, we need to understand the problem and by doing so, we will understand the cause of the problem. As mentioned, the problem is why society has a lack of knowledge and understanding when it comes to dealing with mental illness. This would logically lead us to the assumption that general society is just not well-informed on mental illness. This is evident in the way most (if not all of us) make predetermined assumptions about people with mental illness. But how is being misinformed an issue when there are multiple efforts on the part of people with mental illness and institutions dealing with such matters to create awareness?

From the way I see it, there are two possible reasons for this. The first (and it might not be a popular thing to say) is due to the depiction it receives in Hollywood which is usually an extreme on either end which means that the character is either TOO emotionally volatile or the character is TOO emotionless which ALSO means that there is no real depiction. Adding on, characters in media who are suffering from mental illness are usually displayed in a showman like manner, winning the audience over with their quirkiness and funny remarks which in turn, endears them to people. One only has to look at quirky, overly emotional characters or silent, loner bad boy types, or disgruntled war veterans or psychotic characters to see this has some sort of truth. Unfortunately, mental illnesses are not that cool in reality. So when a person discloses that they have a mental illness to someone of the general population, usually what would come to the mind of the person being told is the Hollywood depiction, which is not cool at all, and say some comment that would demotivate the person to the point where they would reconsider getting the help they would like or need in order to avoid such reactions.

Alternatively, what would also come to the mind of people being told such news is that either the person is 1) faking it and is seeking attention or (in the case of people suffering from depression) 2)just having a bad day. This leads to the problem of misdiagnosis. For one, there are far too many people who might ACTUALLY just have a bad day but think something is wrong with them. This leads them to taking a random internet test (which clearly indicates that you should see a professional) and the result is them performing a self-diagnosis and using it as leverage to gain sympathy. This, in turn, is how the efforts to raise awareness, also take a hit. General society is not going to take things such as mental illness seriously if people can suddenly self-diagnose and try to leverage that diagnosis for sympathy. This leads to where we as a society currently are (the stigmatization of mental illness). Because of this stigmatization, this will, in turn, prevent people ACTUALLY suffering from mental illness to open up due to the skepticism they will face from general society.

To add on to that, the lack of physical symptoms is a HUGE factor in determining the perception people have on mental illness. People mostly tend to believe what they see.
Physical pain is easy to empathize with as everyone knows pain. Because people cannot empathize with others who are suffering from mental illness, they tend to not care as much and have an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. In this regard, I believe that TRUE knowledge is missing. Because a mental illness is something I believe a person has to go through in order to fully understand, the knowledge can only be shared by people who have the illness. But because of society’s mostly general reaction to the matter (mentioned multiple times), the knowledge will most likely never be fully disclosed.

With regards to the second point being made (people just having a bad day), I think it is just a matter once again of people not truly understanding. This is also due to the unfamiliarity with the subject that most people have. It also doesn’t help that such neurological diseases are not well-defined and can also be misdiagnosed by psychiatrists and psychologists themselves. To prove this, the definitions, causes, and classifications are constantly changing (personality disorders were previously listed as their own classification but are now considered a part of mental illness). If psychologists and psychiatrists (who are the best hope society has to getting answers) have to regularly redefine definitions and causes, then how can society even begin to hope to understand what mental illness is?

So now we are left with the situation whereby:

•People within society do want to help but do not know how due to a lack of knowledge.
•Other people within society who probably have a mental illness but rather keep quiet about it because of the possible repercussions of of being looked upon differently or shunned altogether.
•Experts in the field being ridiculed by certain parts of society because of not having all the answers.
•People who are suffering from mental illness further distancing themselves from society due to a lack of support when they should be receiving support in their dark days.
•People who have mental illnesses who are willing to speak to society, but their words of wisdom falling on deaf ears due to the lack of public awareness.
•A lack of public awareness that is caused by lack of interest within society to understand and help people with mental illnesses. This is also partly due to people within society not being able to empathize with people with mental illness because they (society) haven’t experienced it firsthand.
•An industry (that influences millions) which projects a false and extreme image of how mental illnesses work, leading to a stigmatization towards people with mental illness.
•Parts of society not being mature enough to accept and integrate people with mental illness into said society, therefore hampering the emotional growth of people and society in general.

Pretty messed up, isn’t it?

The good thing is that because we have identified the causes of the problems, we can now come up with ways to solve said problems. First of which, I believe is we need to remember that at the end of the day, a mental illness is exactly that…an illness. It doesn’t define the person suffering from it and neither should we. The bottom line is that people with mental disorders are just like us in that they also have hopes, goals, and dreams. They also want to love and be loved. We need to recognize them as people, not as case studies. In doing so, we can also begin to relate to them the same way they can relate to us. It is by doing this that we can support each other. Once we do that, we will look beyond the mental illness and see people with mental illnesses the same way we see our family and friends. As one of us.

This, in turn, will also help people with mental illness. You would find a situation where some people have NO ONE to talk to because a) they have been shunned and have no communication with anyone or b) they are surrounded by people who do not believe in mental illness and as a result have to tough it out, leading to further emotional damage for the person. By being patient, caring, encouraging, showing them support and recognizing them as our peers, they will begin to feel accepted. This will lead to them being integrated into society. By integrating them into society, the people who suffer from mental disorders will feel more comfortable to discuss their experiences and how it actually is like, leading to understanding and awareness from society as a whole, allowing us to be better equipped with dealing with mental illnesses. This will also help us and experts in the field gain insight into what having a mental illness is really like.

The domino effect of this is that people with mental illnesses that have been hiding in plain sight will start to feel more encouraged to talk about their issues, because they will have seen the change in attitude within society leading. This can also be used as an opportunity for us as a society to discuss and raise public awareness for other societal issues without fear of reparations, leading to a more socially mature society.

With public awareness in full view, and the knowledge and people at hand available, the media can begin to properly depict mental illnesses with any stereotypes and glamorization, leading to massive exposure and awareness to people who haven’t been exposed to mental disorders yet. This will in turn, show how much potential good the media can do if they wanted to or had the people and knowledge necessary to depict it.

And thus, society would come full circle with mirroring people with mental disorders. In the same way both people with mental illnesses and society was fractured, they would have healed together, which would be a crowning achievement.

The change must begin with us.

To paraphrase what a wonderful lady named Shannon L.Alder once said:
When “I” is replaced with “we”, we get wellness instead of illness”.

Hope you enjoyed and thank you for reading…


Mental Health, Mental Illness

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author avatar Memba Ben
A fan's view on the business of football.

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