After I wrote about the perceived stigma around anxiety and depression , an astute reader suggested I also talk about the stigma surrounding other mental illnesses such as obsessive compulsive disorder, manic depression (bi-polar), seasonal affective disorder and schizophrenia. She pointed out statistics indicate that 1 out of every 100 people suffer with schizophrenia, 1.5 out of every 100 suffer with bi-polar and another 1.5 out of every 100 suffer with depression. I thank her for giving me the nudge!
Of course, she is absolutely right. Just as anxiety and depression may be related to biochemistry, the same is true of the above disorders. People who suffer from these conditions suffer first from the difficulty of living with them, and secondly from the thought that they are perceived as “mentally ill.”
While they have illnesses affecting the mind, these people are not crazed lunatics, as the term “mentally ill” may suggest to some. Those who appear that way do so because they are not receiving proper treatment, or are not taking their medications. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with such illnesses may cause the individual or other family members to fail to disclose the extent of their symptoms to healthcare personnel.
People with these disorders are often highly intelligent, sensitive, loving and creative. They need our understanding, support acceptance and compassion. We must do an honest inventory of our own attitudes and biases, correct what needs correcting—and become advocates for those who struggle. We also must teach our children to do the same.
Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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