Thursday, August 2, 2012

The face of mental illness

What does the face of mental illness look like?  Look at these pictures and see if you can tell which person has the mental illness.

You probably can't decide who has a mental illness because they all look like someone you know or not like the stereotype that society has portrayed for years.  They could be your best friend, they could be your next-door neighbor and even a family member.  The point is that you can't see mental illness so let's stop treating everybody differently when we find out they have a mental illness.

According to movies, society and the media, mental illness looks something like this.

These images are both false and do not represent the average person with mental illness.  In the news recently there have been talks of the shooter in Colorado that may have a mental illness and even if he does his actions are very rare and an extreme case.  I know he has hurt so many and it breaks my heart.  I go the movie theater quite often and had planned to see that very movie the next night.    I have no idea if he has a mental illness and that is not for me to decide or for anyone else to at this point unless they are part of judicial system.   I do not really want to talk about him other than because of what he did a lot of people are getting the wrong idea about mental illness.   The majority of people that live with mental illness will never harm another person on the planet.  People with mental illness actually are more prone to kill themselves than anybody else.  Everyone needs to know that mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain and the person was born with it and it is not their fault.   It is not easy living with a mental illness and it takes daily work to stay stable.  The majority of us try everything we can to stay as healthy as possible.  There is treatment out there however but medicine and therapy do not always work one hundred percent of the time.  

I heard on a show the other night that it is the responsibility of the person with mental illness to be in charge of their care.  While I agree with that to a point. I know even when I take my medicine as prescribed I may still go into a manic or depressed state and my reality is not logical and I will not listen to reason.  That is why I have a support system in place when my logic and reason do not make sense.   I have never been dangerous to anyone other than myself.   Medicine tends to stop working even when you take them from time to time.  That's why it's so important to have some type of support in your life.  You need someone out there that when you get to that point that you're out on the ledge that can pull you back in from the darkness. I have spoken to many people with mental illness and some family members are not that supportive and neither are their friends.  That's why I urge anyone living with a mental illness to seek out some type of support online or in your local town.   It really does help to have someone to talk to that knows what you're really going through and can help you get through those rough days.  I wish everyone would quit judging people with a mental illness and stop automatically assuming that we are dangerous and someone to fear.  I know most people were extremely shocked and surprised when I told them I had a mental illness.  Treating mental illness is no different than treating any other health problems.  It is something that you were born with and it is no ones fault.  It can just be a bit tougher to get the medications at the right level.   Just this past week I got really depressed out of no where and it was my support team that got me back on track.

Now look at these pictures and tell me which one has a mental illness. 


These celebrities Demi Lovato and Catherine Zeta-Jones had no signs in their public life and by looking at them you would never know they had a mental illness.  They are both very talented women and they both have been so open about having Bipolar Disorder.   So today let's change the face of mental illness.  The majority of people that live with a mental illness look just like people in the crowd and not someone that has dyed orange hair and destroys lives.   That is why it is so important that we fight the stigma associated with mental illness even when something as tragic as what happened in Colorado, Arizona, and at Virginia Tech.  As I mentioned these were all extreme cases and for most of them someone saw warning signs of problems and failed to step in and pull them off that ledge.    There also needs to be a change in health care that would cover more people's mental health treatment.  I know it still upsets me that even though I have great insurance that it does not cover as much for my treatment of Bipolar Disorder as it does for my arthritis treatments.   I do not see the difference and it is time that insurance companies stop treating them differently as well.  I know so many that have mental illness that cannot afford treatment.  So if you are reading this, try to think of ways you can help out someone with a mental illness, help change health care, and fight the stigma associated with mental illness.  The more we stand united the better chance we have to succeed.