Mental Illness is a problem. Not the one you probably think, though. Mental illness is a problem because of the stigma. Yes, it’s tough, but must it be embarrassing? When people are stigmatized because they are depressed, bi-polar or schizophrenic, it decreases the chances they will get the help they need.
If you break your leg, people feel bad and do what they can to help you. If you have cancer, people offer to bring food over or take your kids to school. If however, you are depressed, people may start to act funny around you.
I haven’t experienced mental illness myself, but my brother is experiencing some issues. He’s not someone I talk about usually, because I don’t want people to think I’m crazy. However, when I do open up about him, it turns out LOTS of people have a family member suffering from a mental illness. Why don’t we talk about this?
There’s such a stigma surrounding mental illness in this country, it prevents an honest dialogue. When my father passed away, I saw a therapist. Do I tell people about this? Not really. Especially among African-Americans, it seems mental health it a taboo topic. Some of it makes sense. African-Americans were abused and taken advantage of in supposed “health studies” such as the Tuskegee Syphilis experiments. These types of practices, along with higher than average institutionalization, has caused mistrust of the medical field.
However, we have to get help where we can. African-American women often take on too many responsibilities and don’t take care of themselves. See a counselor? That’s wimpy and weak. That’s for white people. I’ll pray on it. I don’t need to talk my problems out with a stranger or air my dirty laundry. As a consequence of this (and other things, like you know, racism) African-American women suffer higher rates of stress related medical issues. According to SAMHSA, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “6.0 percent of African Americans age 18 to 25 had serious mental illness in the past year. Less than half of these (44.8 percent) received treatment in the past year.” Our young people are not getting the help they need.
There’s nothing wrong with getting help. You can be a Christian and see a therapist. You are no more being a bad Christian for seeing a therapist than if you took a Tylenol. It’s not self-indulgent to get the help you need. It’s not a luxury, but a necessity to address mental issues you may have.
We need to talk to our kids about feelings. We need to lessen the stigma associated with mental illnesses. Too often we tell little boys to, “man up!” Why? He’s four! Let him feel sad. Let him feel disappointed. Give him the words to talk about his feelings. Let our daughters know that there is no shame is taking care of themselves physically and emotionally.
The isolation and loneliness of mental illness are perhaps some of the worst consequences of mental illness. Many mental illnesses are in part genetic and not an indictment of the individual. My brother has mental issues. He is still my brother, and I love him. I want him to be able to get help. I don’t want to feel like I have to hide his disease. I don’t want my son or anyone else’s children to feel that having a mental illness is so bad or so wrong that they cannot speak up and get help for it.
Do you or a family member have a mental issue? Is it being treated? How did your family react to the news? Did the old vitamins and exercise work for you?!