Imagine illnesses were actual people. Here in apartment 4B, we have Mr. and Mrs. Heart Disease. Man, they are the quietest neighbors. You can never hear them coming. You turn around and poof, there they are. Next door to them lives the Cancer family. They have the longest names. I’ll be honest. We can’t even pronounce them, so we just call them by nicknames. There’s Breast, Colon, Kidney, and Thyroid, just to name a few. There are so many of them packed into that little apartment. Across the hall is Ms. Diabetes. She lives with her kids, Diabetes 1 and Diabetes 2. They keep a tight schedule. If you ever want to be somewhere on time have them remind you. One floor up is the Autoimmune family. You’ll want to stay away from them. They are always fighting amongst themselves. Around the corner is Mr. Alzheimer’s and Mrs. Dementia. They are a sweet older couple, but I won’t introduce you to them, because sometimes meeting new people confuses them. Two floors up, we have the Parkinson’s…oh my gosh, turn around, turn around. Just keep walking, don’t make eye contact, get in the elevator. Whew, that was close. That is Mental Illness. Do not bring him up to the neighbors. We don’t know anything about him, and we don’t want to know him. If we had our way we would vote him out of the building, but we can’t. So we just ignore him. You will never find that guy at the building Christmas party that is for sure…What do you mean? He is a cousin of yours? Oh, oops, sorry the apartment was just rented.
Do you know anyone with mental illness? Many people will answer “no”, but, actually, since approximately 1 in 5 Americans has a mental illness, the odds are very good that you do know someone. You just don’t know it. Why is that? Well, that is because aside from sexually transmitted diseases, no group of illnesses brings as much shame, or blame, as mental illness.
Think about it.
Depressed? You just don’t know how good you have it.
Bipolar? Dude, can’t handle his money, and is too lazy to work.
Schizophrenia, man, she needs to lay off the drugs, and quit tripping.
Personality disorder? Attention seeker, that’s all.
Mental illnesses are seen as diseases that we cause ourselves, through our own actions, or are due to a lack of character. This simply isn’t true.
Mental illnesses are complex, and at times, difficult to manage. They can be frustrating for the patient, physicians, family, and friends. However, ignoring them, and hoping they go away, doesn’t work. We need to talk about what is working, what isn’t working, what helps, and what doesn’t.
Talk…we have to talk. That’s a start…