Column: It’s time we start a conversation about mental illness

Column: It’s time we start a conversation about mental illness

April 28
04:04 2016

Morgan Sullivan | Staff Writer

@sadsquadch

Mental illness: a phrase not often uttered by news media, or spoken of in public in a proactive sense. As a society, it’s a phrase we have deemed “untouchable,” a phrase too uncomfortable to discuss even in the most general of situations. However, one in four people are affected by a mental disorder, according to the world health report by the World Health Organization.

If so many people worldwide are affected by mental disorders, then why isn’t it talked about more? The short answer: we suffer in silence because of the disgrace that surrounds it.

Yes, I said we. 

Since age 14, I have suffered from generalized anxiety, social anxiety and depression. For many years, I was quiet about my mental illness because of the stigma surrounding it. If I didn’t disclose my illness with others, including my family, it wasn’t tangible.

On September 25, 2013, this stance changed.

I awoke that morning to the worst voicemail I’ve ever received. After calling my mother back, through her sobs on the phone, I learned that my uncle had committed suicide earlier that morning. I tell you this because my uncle was a happy man. One of the happiest people I knew. He suffered in silence and he didn’t have to.

One of the reasons many people choose to go through mental illness alone is because the majority of the population is uneducated about such issues. When portrayed in the media, movies undoubtedly have over-the-top depictions, or romanticize mental illness and make things much less gruesome than they are. In movies, the girl falls in love and her depression is suddenly cured. OCD is somehow seen as comical.

If I’ve learned anything about depression, it’s that another person cannot fix you, no matter how dreamy they are. It’s something you must do on your own. And OCD is no laughing matter – ask anyone who has ever truly suffered from such.

Unless mental illness is being discussed as reasoning behind an egregious crime, it’s otherwise ignored by the news media. Mental illness is the first thing newscasters point fingers at when trying to understand many acts of violence, especially those involving guns. When you lump together any group of people, the majority of those included do not represent your stereotype.

In fact, mental illness is different for everyone. There are more than 200 forms of mental illness, including dementia, epilepsy, schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. What one person might experience could be completely different than what someone else does – yet this doesn’t mean one person’s feelings are less valid than another’s.

If you have a mental disorder, there’s no reason to believe your life is any less valuable than someone who doesn’t have one. It’s just a chemical imbalance. We don’t blame people with hypoglycemia for their glucose deficiency – the same courtesy should be passed to those suffering from mental disorder.

The truth is, mental illness can be treated. Whether it’s with prescription drugs, therapy or another form of treatment, things can get better. It starts with being brave enough to start a conversation about mental illness – refuse to suffer in silence.

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1 Comment

  1. AuntNette
    AuntNette April 28, 13:09

    Thank you for having the courage to share your struggles. My prayer is that someone will read this and realize they do not have to suffer in silence. Love you and proud to be your aunt!

    Reply to this comment

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