Problem with Oppression & Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

Problem with Oppression & Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

The problem is not simply the presence of a mental illness in an individual’s life; rather, it is how society responses to the individual’s different view of living and functioning in the world.

How ‘healthy’, ‘normal’, and ‘deficientcy’ is defined ,and perpetuated, in society greatly impacts an individual’s perception of themselves, their interactions with others, and how the societal structures assist or inhibit the person’s process of recovery.

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Kevin Breel shines light on the True Relationship between Society & Depression

This movie will provide you with truth, honesty, courage, & insight into the experience of depression in our society today.

To watch, please click on the link below:

http://www.upworthy.com/this-kid-thinks-we-could-save-so-many-lives-if-only-it-was-okay-to-say-4-words

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“Every 30 seconds, someone in the world takes their life because of depression”–Kevin Breel

Mental health remains a Taboo

Mental health remains a Taboo

Ant’s quote is spot on regarding the way in which mental health is discussed (or better yet, the lack of its discussion in some settings). There are many individuals, families, and organizations (for-profit & non-profit) that have began discussions of mental health. In order to create the change that needs to occur for the advancement of our society, these discussions need not stop or waver when frustrations and challenges arise.

By remaining conscientious of mental health in our personal lives and having an awareness of the policies that further impact the access to treatment, we as a society can create lasting change.

Educate, Empower, & Recover…. OH MY!

Yesterday, I experienced an interesting moment.
I notified someone, who holds a dear place in my heart, that I will be working with adults who experience severe mental illness next year during my internship. I expected the responses “congratulations” or “that’s awesome”. However, I received those responses and something more: “I hope it doesn’t rub off on you”.

                                 This comment does not stem from ignorance.
                     The comment stems from a lack of knowledge and fear.

First of all, let me state that this individual did not mean the comment to be demeaning or stigmatizing. Yet, the comment got me thinking about the number of people who may also have a similar belief; the belief that mental illnesses are contagious. This idea is beyond inaccurate.

Honestly, the comment caught me off guard. I did not know whether to be upset, angry, or happy. I was upset at the amount of misunderstanding that people with a mental illness experience daily. I was angry at the stigma that is direct towards me and others who work within the mental healthcare system, in addition to those who receive mental health services. And, simultaneously, I was happy.

I felt an odd level of happiness at the comment, “I hope it doesn’t rub off on you”, because the comment provided me with information. The information I gained from hearing this comment is that there remains a need to inform communities and family members about mental illness. The comment has provided me with an opportunity to educate, as well as advocate.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI, 2013) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA, 2012), mental illnesses are conditions that can disturb an individual’s thoughts, feelings, mood, interpersonal skills, and daily functioning. Mental illnesses impact people of all ages, socioeconomic status, race, and religion. Severe mental illnesses include major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders [such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)], and borderline personality disorder.

“Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weaknesses,
lack of character, or poor upbringing”
(NAMI, 2013).

I can not stress enough: recovery from mental illness is possible. Although there are genetic aspects to mental illnesses, as there is with the development of cancerous cells, mental illnesses are NOT contagious like the cold or flu.

 

For more information regarding the mental illnesses mentioned above, please visit the resources listed below:

— American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2012). www.psychiatry.org/mental-health.
— Let’s Talk Facts Brochures. (2005). American Psychiatric Association.
          www.psychiatry.org/mentalhealth/lets-talk-facts-brochures.
— National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). (2013). www.nami.org
— What is Major Depression. (2013). National Alliance on Mental Illness. 
          http://www.nami.org/factsheets/depression_factsheet.pdf

A story of a Musician, Bipolar disorder, & Depression

Since it is Mental Health Awareness Month, I figured now would be a perfect time to share this with you:

Michael Angelakos is the singer, songwriter, and producer of a band called Passion Pit. Michael is also an individual who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression. He shares his experiences of the mental illness’ symptoms and his process through recovery.

On May 3, 2013, Michael was awarded the Beatrice Stern Media Award at the Erasing the Stigma Leadership Awards.

Please click on the link to learn more about Michael’s experiences with mental illness. — http://consequenceofsound.net/2013/05/passion-pit-michael-angelakos-honored-for-efforts-in-mental-health-awareness/

Erasing stigma is not only a one-person job. Each of us, together, can dismantle stigma’s grip on our society. 

In an alternate universe…

As I brain stormed ideas for this blog entry, a Twilight Zone episode continued to consume my thoughts:

        A woman wakes up in the hospital with her face bandaged. The nurse (whose face you don’t see) unwraps the bandages and screams. The nurse calls the doctor into the patient’s room. The doctor (whose face the audience also doesn’t see) states that the woman can not be healed or fixed. Next, the camera shows the audience the woman’s face. She is beautiful with flawless skin and a glowing complexion. The doctor then tells the nurse to call Them to pick p athe patient und take her away. After commercial break, the door to the patient’s hospital room opens and a man (that looks like Barbie’s Ken) walks into the room. He tells the woman patient, “Hello. I am bringing you to a land where people like us can be together and live in peace”. The patient willingly goes with this stranger without question. The camera then shows the audience the doctor’s and nurses’ faces: pig-like with noses that look like snouts. Although this Twilight Zone episode addresses the subjectivity of beauty and the ways in which society upholds the criteria for what is perceived as beautiful or not, this episode can relate to how mental illness is currently understood and perceived.

What if in an alternate universe, having a mental illness diagnosis was seen as a glamorous entity. In this alternate universe, people rush to psychiatrists, therapists, and clinics to be assessed for a mental illness. Having a mental illness diagnosis of depression, bipolar, or schizophrenia (to name a few) is normalized and accepted as a label that belongs to the majority. The individuals without a mental illness diagnosis are perceived as marginalized, lacking super-human capabilities, or as abnormal.

Would stigma still exist in this alternate universe? I believe yes, but in a different way than stigma exists in our society. Stigma would be internalized by those without a diagnosis, instead of by those who have one.

Would having a diagnosis provide the individual with access to special or desired resources? Probably so. Although in our current society, resources are provided to people with a mental illness diagnosis, many factors continue to interfere with the individual’s ability to actually have access to them. Some factors, to name a few, are healthcare (insurance or lack thereof), transportation, locations where services are provided, price & quality of such services, and shame/embarrassment that is experienced by many when acknowledging to family and friends that they have been diagnosed or exhibit the symptoms that warrant a diagnosis.

Would people be accused of ‘faking’ symptoms or behaviors in order to receive such a diagnosis in this alternate universe? Probably so. In any society where there is a created stratification based upon any innate (physical, biological) or socially constructed characteristics (racial, socioeconomic, gender, occupational), accusations of fraud will more than likely exist.

Even though our current society has a large prevalence of mental illness, individuals diagnosed with a mental illness are portrayed by the media (and from society’s choice in terminology) as ‘crazy’ or ‘deviant’. But in actuality, many are misunderstood and are at times, seen as having a characteristic fault.

We do not live in the alternate universe that I have described above. No, we do not. However, we can live in a society where we do not place judgement on others when life becomes difficult. We can change our current society into one that encourages sharing our struggles and challenges in order to strengthen each one of us. We can, together.