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Mental Illness

14th July 2009 by Carol Posted in Uncategorized

Among the many challenges for people with mental illness is the stigma the American Dream society places on people who have mental illnesses. While attitudes have changed somewhat towards this type of illness in the past generation, at the root is a feeling that somewhere someone messed up and the mental illness is a result of that mistake or series of mistakes. This attitude makes it difficult for people to discuss or plan for coping with mental illnesses because they fear appearing wrong, weak, sinful, bad, or less than normal.

Another challenge is that mental illnesses can affect a person’s perception so much that the person does not realize what is happening. Or, the illness can come along slow enough that the person habituates to it and fails to recognize it until it is extreme. Mental illnesses that alter perceptions such as schizophrenia and paranoia are difficult to address because to the person that has one of these problems, the voices or other experiences are real, even if those voices are not real to anyone else. Mood disorders such as depression can curb a person’s life slowly and gradually but eventually to an extreme level without the person being aware of the process.

Put the stigma and the perceptual issues together and the problem of denial becomes life threatening in many ways. It can be life threatening if the disorder leads to violence towards oneself or others but also it is life threatening in terms of the quality of life for the person who is dysfunctional due to mental illness.

The history of the treatment of mental illness is grim however recent years have seen the development of more effective treatments particularly in relation to our newer understandings of the chemicals in the brain and their functions. With proper, caring treatment, a person with a mental illness can hold a job and be a part of healthy relationships with other people.

With treatment, mental illness has the same status as any physical chronic disease. It is something to deal with on a daily basis and something to focus on as necessary, but it is not something that ruins the life of the patient or his or her family.

When a person with a suspected mental illness has a glimmering of an idea that something is wrong, that person needs a lot of support and caring through the diagnostic process and the time it takes for treatments to become effective. The person also needs long term support and encouragement to participate in treatment. Judgment does not work in this case, but caring can work miracles.

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