Friday Find: On Mental Illness

Mental illness isn't something that only happens to other people – in fact, according to the UK's Mental Health Association, one in four British adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any one year. And mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain.

Whether it's you, or someone you know – a close friend or family member – the likelihood is that mental illness has touched your life in some way.

And even though our society has come a long way in acknowledging that mental health is something that needs to be cared for, much like our physical health, there remains much stigma attached to illnesses like anxiety and depression, let alone bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia.

Journalist Alice Bradley wrote a great piece this week on her own decision to medicate for her depression, something I just couldn't help but share. Because it's when people share their stories – their feelings and experiences – that stigma falls away.

It's when we realize that mental illness doesn't happen to other people and other people's family members, but to people just like ourselves, that we can develop compassion and facilitate an open discussion on the topic.

I think there's so much work to be done generally in this area, especially in the public sector's treatment of those with mental illness, but breaking down stigma is something we can all help do right away.

In fact, just this week, there was a NY Times article about the creator of a treatment used worldwide for severely suicidal people, who told her own story of mental illness in public for the first time last week. According to the article, Dr. Marsha M. Linehan of the University of Washington said, "So many people have begged me to come forward, and I just thought — well, I have to do this. I owe it to them. I cannot die a coward."

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  1. We think people with mental illness are somehow visibly "crazy" - Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted, or Robin Williams in The Fisher King. Mostly, they live just like ordinary people. Who, with a little help and therapy, can often continue living like ordinary people, and without it, are in deep trouble.

  2. Thanks for a really good observation. The more awareness that can be raised about the ordinariness of mental health issues, the less of a stigma they become. And the general public are often not aware of how far a little help and therapy -- as you say -- can really go.


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