I watch Law and Order. Heck, I have to admit I love the show. Watching them bust the loony criminal that is yelling at the voices in his head, the girl who went off her meds and killed three kids on a manic spree? I feel more than a little bit guilty about this because I also suffer from Mental Illness. There is a disparity there. The show should make me angry, really angry. However, week after week I tune in. Perhaps it’s because I feel like my illness is under control… maybe because the producers make it look so outrageous it seems almost ludicrous. Regardless, as a consumer I am allowing them to propagate these lies and misconceptions regarding Mental Illness!
So what, you say? What can one person do? Good question… what should we be saying and what should we be doing? Despite all the policies and statistics and funding issues, I am going to suggest a new, simpler solution. TALK!
Mental Illness is precisely that, an illness. It is not contracted. Its development is not the fault of anyone who is its victim. It is not criminal. It can’t be prevented.
First talking point: mental illness needs to be brought forth from the shadows. Talk about what it is. Educate yourself and in turn educate others. The information is a Google click away. Inform yourself and inform others.
Second: it is critical to let people know that seeking help is not just okay, but a huge step in the right direction. We need to help people find out what help is available and where to go to get it. We need to let people know that getting help for a mental illness does not mean that you are a failure or will be judged by others. We need to take steps to erase the stigma so that people who need help are not afraid to get help.
Additionally, we need to let people know that the Mentally Ill are no more likely to commit a violent act despite what these sensationalistic TV shows portray. Mental Illness is not obvious, you generally can’t see it. It’s not the homeless person drunkenly sleeping on a park bench. It is people you know. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Mental disorders are currently the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada.
What is this stigma and lack of discussion costing us? Well, we could bring up the fact that many end up in prison at a cost of $50,000 to $100,000 a year! However, I believe the greatest cost – one that cannot be quantified – is an ever increasing amount of LIVES. Between the years of 1999 and 2010 suicide was up nearly 28%. It is now the 4th leading cause of death in America!
So what do we do about it? Again I say TALK. Suicide is preventable. In 2010, over 38,000 people took their own lives. We can prevent these deaths by merely talking.
If you feel that you may have mental issues, please seek help. Talk to a loved one about it. Leave a comment for me if you like! Reach out for the help that is readily available. If you believe that a friend or loved one is struggling. Please reach out to them. Let them know that it takes a strong person to get help. Support them through the learning process and assist them in taking action.
I recommend contacting the National Alliance on Mental Illness or the Depression and Bipolar and Support Alliance. These organizations can provide referrals, support groups and information regarding any symptom you may be experiencing. They are there to help…
Please, remember, start TALKING today!