Mental Illness: Spreading Awareness, Fighting the Stigma and Shame

Mental illness. Two words that conjure lots of different feelings and thoughts. There are those who are remorseful, those who are afraid, those who don’t know what to do or say and yet there are those who are non-sympathetic to those who are thought to be or have been diagnosed as mentally ill. It is perfectly understandable for one not to know what to say or do when they meet someone who is mentally ill. That said, the stigma and negative connotations usually associated with mental illness can be fought and even though the battle might be long and hard, it all begins with an understanding: an understanding of what mental illness is and what can be done to accommodate those who are thought to be mentally ill.

Mental Illness is Just an Illness Line any Other

Mental illness is just that, an illness. Anyone can get mentally ill but there are those who are predisposed to mental illness. These people have a higher than average chance of getting mentally ill than most other people. For example, for those genetically predisposed, various forms of mental illness can be passed down to their children and even to their grandchildren. Think of it as being the same way that one inherits different features from their parents, be they curly hair, brown eyes or height. Secondly, mental illness can arise from chemical imbalances in the body caused by different conditions such as a different disease (for example cerebral malaria), depression and use or misuse of certain drugs, be they prescription or recreational drugs.

Mental Illness Manifests in Different Ways

There are many different forms of mental illness with one of the most notable ones being one associated with “madness” because of its outward nature. Due to the public nature of these forms of mental illness, mentally ill persons are often referred to using derogatory terms, the mildest of them being crazy or mad. This is in addition to being privately and publicly humiliated, disrespected, shunned and in some cases treated inhumanely. These types of negative connotations and treatments go a long way to propagate the oppression of those who may have even the mildest forms of mental illness. The time and energy expended in the admonishing of mentally ill people could be used better in finding out the cause of their condition and finding ways to deal with it, be it managing it or healing it.

Yes, mental illness is curable and if not, manageable. Managing and treating mental illness starts with an understanding that mentally ill people do not deserve to be sick and to go through what they do due to the actions of those who see them as lesser human beings. It is true that mentally ill people do get into trouble or break some rules and laws from time to time especially when going through an episode. When this happens, a hailstorm of harsh critique, words and mistreatment often follows. Although it would be wrong for mentally ill persons to take no responsibility for their actions, we ought to understand where their actions stem from, and this understanding should mould our reactions to and actions towards their actions.

There is Help

There is help for mental illness
For those who are mentally ill or know someone who is, there is help. Despite the fact that a lot of mentally ill people give up and believe that they have to be mentally ill for the whole of their lives, there are lots of very useful resources that can help deal with, cure and manage mental illness. Even when getting help for mentally ill persons, we have to create an understanding as a society. Understanding what mental illness is, how to deal with it and how to handle those affected by this disease will go a long way towards stemming the tide as far as the oppression of mentally ill people is concerned. When all is said and done, a problem might still remain.

Even if we heal all the mentally ill people in the world, we still have to look deep into ourselves and find ways to heal ourselves. We have to heal ourselves of the negative thinking we have towards mentally ill people. We have to heal ourselves of the shame that we feel towards mentally ill people. We have to heal ourselves of all the hatred we have toward mentally ill people. Doing all of this will not only help us deal with mentally ill people a lot better now and in the future, but it will also make us better human beings overall.

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