“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”
Mental Health….when people hear that phrase, what do they think about? I am aware that when most people hear the words MENTAL ILLNESS these days, they picture a deranged, out of control individual who is plowing through an elementary school with a semi-automatic weapon. One who is standing atop a building or a bridge readying himself to jump, or, one who is driving through a barricade, trying to get to the White House, and who, with her baby in the back in a car seat, is killed by the police.
These are the images and the faces of mental illness which the major media outlets present to the world. However, there are many other faces which are never shown and yet are much more prevalent than the sensational images. These faces, belonging to those who get up in the morning and push through their days, working as bus drivers, doctors, bookkeepers, train conductors, lawyers, plumbers, teachers, laborers, babysitters, carpenters, accountants. Men and women raising kids, caring for the elderly, working to save animals, create foster families, conserve the environment and administer compassionate health care and social services. Religious folks, atheists, priests, pastors, rabbis, imams. Artists, writers, musicians, photographers, filmmakers. These ordinary and extraordinary lives are touched every day by mental illness, whether personally experienced or through caring for a family member who suffers.
Within most families, there are generations of relatives with similar mental health issues, diagnosed or not. The majority will not seek help from the medical community for fear of being labeled as mentally ill. Generation after generation they have been admonished by their elders to hold it together, hide the symptoms as best they can and taught to be ashamed and afraid of the consequences of being found out. They will then self-medicate with alcohol and drugs or process addictions like gambling or sex or shopping. The problem with these self-administered treatments is that often, if not always, they lead to a larger problem with mental, emotional, financial or physical health.
If you have a brain, and most of us do 😀 , you can and probably will suffer from a mental illness. It might not be a chronic, lifelong thing; it could encompass a one-time episode of depression or anxiety. It might not be acute, necessitating a hospitalization or even a prescription medication, but just a few weeks worth of professional talk therapy and behavioral modifications could be all that’s necessary to get back to a state of mental health.
In order to achieve MENTAL HEALTH, it is necessary to discuss and to share and to seek out professional help when we become aware that things are not working as they normally should in our brains. Just as we do when things are not working correctly with our physical bodies, when we have pain that is not normal, when certain hormones, or our blood sugar or calcium or magnesium levels are out of the norm and need to be adjusted. We seek out a doctor, a professional who we know can help us.
The brain is the most vital organ in our body; it is a physical mass of the most complex connective tissue, weighing about three pounds and controlling almost all of our body systems. The reasons that mental illness and physical illness became separate are beyond my scope of understanding. It needs to end.
Cancer was spoken about only in whispers and alluded to as the BIG C as recently as my grandparents generation. It was only brought out into the light by those who suffered and beat it and eventually cancer’s stigma of an automatic death sentence was put aside. Let’s put aside the stigma of seeking treatment for the physical illness of our brain by discussing our experiences with mental illness and our experiences getting back to a state of optimal mental health through diagnosis and treatment.
Those of us who the world at large perceive as “NORMAL” but who are well aware that we have or currently are suffering with some form of mental illness, must speak up and speak out so that we can combat the images that the media feeds the public. The stigma of mental illness will not come to an end until all of us who experience it start to talk about it and stop being afraid.
We get up each day, we walk the earth and we function. We start businesses. We create art, we write books, we love and care for our children and our elderly and we volunteer at our churches and synagogues and mosques and we earn money and contribute to our communities every day. We are certainly not monsters and we are not hiding under our beds. We are living our lives and taking care of business.
If you’d like to share in the dialog during this year’s BLOG FOR MENTAL HEALTH 2014 PROJECT, go to http://acanvasoftheminds.com/2014/01/07/blog-for-mental-health-2014/#more-4498 and follow the directions to join the awareness project.