Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Keeping it real 4.0: stigma of mental illness

While I have been calling attention to the lack of discussion on how mental illness may play a role in violence, drug abuse, and other maladaptive behaviors, its important to note that being mentally ill doesn't mean that you are somehow dangerous, going to abuse medicines, or deliberately harm yourself in other ways. Nor is autism the cause of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. These are each incredibly complex issues, wherein we cannot place blame on simplistic explanations or experiences. Doing so would only act to further marginalize mental illness in society.

Which brings me to the topic so social stigma, and the cultural taboos surrounding mental order, or disorder, if we must. Why is mental illness held to a very different set of rules when compared to "physical" illness? Why doesn't anyone discuss what happened when a young seemingly healthy person commits suicide or overdoses? Is it disrespectful to the deceased (or their family or friends) to examine their mental state? To discuss their demise? Are we "politicizing" tragedy in discussing gun control after a mass-shooting? Are panic attacks more shameful than appendicitis? Is it culturally acceptable to have diabetes, but not depression?

I don't have the answers to these, but I certainly feel more comfortable talking about when I had Dengue Fever or that I get migraine headaches, when compared to discussing soul-sucking depression. And, I doubt that if someone died well before their time (at the age of 34) people would find it inappropriate to discuss, say leukemia, if that was the case. Please note that this last statement is not meant to be accusatory, but rather, exploratory.

With Keeping it Real, I am putting myself out there (and I am not the only one!), in the hope that mental illnesses become normalized within our psyches'. Maybe, if mental illness carried only the connotations of physical illness, more people would seek help, be able to access care, and the warning signs of imminent danger would be a) more apparent and b) actionable.  

I saw a great line today, which sums up how I am feeling at the moment:

 "Without discussion there can be no progress."

Shall we discuss and progress?

Sweet dreams,

PS This is totally creepy. Check it out!

PPS If you don't follow the Bloggess, she also documents her struggles with mental illness. Her post from yesterday was particularly pertinent to this topic.

1 comment:

  1. Good blogs Marni. Keep it up. I have aleays applauded talking about mental health.It affects so many of us.