As I saw my timeline begin to flood with news of Robin Williams death yesterday I found myself saddened a bit because I grew up on his movies. As I began to read the details I realized the alleged cause of death was suicide. What resulted was a lot of positive comments from people and their memories with his movies; but there were also comments that were cringe worthy.
Those comments ranged everywhere from “He was a coward” to “he had money it makes no sense.” I found myself shaking my head in disbelief. It’s 2014 and I live in America, an allegedly progressive culture and the masses still don’t understand mental health illness. I found myself defending depression and bipolar disorder repeatedly online. Not wanting to waste anymore precious energies on statuses of the ignorant I decided to come here to vent. This is MY depression blog after all.
I remember being diagnosed at 9 with just depression. Doctors assumed it was an emotional episode; something I might grow out of; but 3 years later and one suicide attempt (one I didn’t disclose to my parents until much later) they had to acknowledge something else was amiss. And it took years before they had given me a definitive diagnosis. Mostly because I was hiding my symptoms and not divulging full information to my doctors. At 24 years of age they finally got it right: Major Depressive Disorder, borderline Bipolar, Severe Anxiety and PTSD.
Hearing all those things be said about me I felt weak. Being told that I required medication to level out the chemical imbalance in my head and help me function normally was not what I wanted to hear. And I resented it; and I behaved as such. It would be 3 more years until I stopped riding the emotional and mood roller coaster I had been on. After 2 weeks of consecutive insomnia I finally experienced a nervous breakdown for the books and I found myself in a psych ward. You can read about my experience here. When I realized how far gone my mental illness was, how it was alienating me from family and friends and my ability to function in my job in a healthy manner but most importantly affecting my ability to parent; I decided enough was enough.
The road to “healthiness” is by no means an easy task. I still have good days and bad, and require med adjustments, and require intensive therapy. People always say things like “You have a good husband and beautiful children you should be happy” and maybe they are right. Maybe I SHOULD be happy; but when your brain dictates otherwise to you it’s so much easier said than done.
I wish for people to start getting real about mental illness. Just because it doesn’t fit into some neat little box like you want it to does not mean it is not real. Because it is not physical or tangible does not mean it’s not serious. Don’t insult us by telling us “all you need is Jesus” or “Just be happy” because if it were that simple then so many depressed or mentally ill people would not exist. Money does not buy happiness, nor does a good job or any other suggested material item that may indicate affluence and happiness.
So…for those who have made it this far in my blog, here are a few facts about mental illness (Taken from the NAMI.org (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website:
1. Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.
Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.
Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.
In addition to medication treatment, psychosocial treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, peer support groups and other community services can also be components of a treatment plan and that assist with recovery. The availability of transportation, diet, exercise, sleep, friends and meaningful paid or volunteer activities contribute to overall health and wellness, including mental illness recovery.
- Mental illnesses are serious medical illnesses. They cannot be overcome through “will power” and are not related to a person’s “character” or intelligence. Mental illness falls along a continuum of severity. Even though mental illness is widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion-about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans-who live with a serious mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that One in four adults-approximately 57.7 million Americans-experience a mental health disorder in a given year
- The U.S. Surgeon General reports that 10 percent of children and adolescents in the United States suffer from serious emotional and mental disorders that cause significant functional impairment in their day-to-day lives at home, in school and with peers.
- The World Health Organization has reported that four of the 10 leading causes of disability in the US and other developed countries are mental disorders. By 2020, Major Depressive illness will be the leading cause of disability in the world for women and children.
- Mental illness usually strike individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and young adulthood. All ages are susceptible, but the young and the old are especially vulnerable.
- Without treatment the consequences of mental illness for the individual and society are staggering: unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and wasted lives; The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States.
- The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports.
- With appropriate effective medication and a wide range of services tailored to their needs, most people who live with serious mental illnesses can significantly reduce the impact of their illness and find a satisfying measure of achievement and independence. A key concept is to develop expertise in developing strategies to manage the illness process.
- Early identification and treatment is of vital importance; By ensuring access to the treatment and recovery supports that are proven effective, recovery is accelerated and the further harm related to the course of illness is minimized.
- Stigma erodes confidence that mental disorders are real, treatable health conditions. We have allowed stigma and a now unwarranted sense of hopelessness to erect attitudinal, structural and financial barriers to effective treatment and recovery. It is time to take these barriers down.