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Ever wonder if mental illness affects some groups of people more than others? Why do I have Bipolar Disorder, and my friends do not? Did I do something to cause it to happen? Was there something I could have done to avoid it? Maybe it’s totally the fault of genetics.
Opening up about my life and what I have been through for well over 20 years, was the scariest thing I have ever done. I had no idea what the reaction was going to be from friends and family. Did I really want them to know, and was I ready for the backlash? Once you come forward with information such as this, I am sure there are plenty of people thinking in the back of their minds, “Well, that explains a lot”. Those people don’t concern me. It’s the people that instantly judge based on little or no facts that concern me.
I get stigma on a very regular basis. This in turn severely limits, or even extinguishes, the support that I need. I’ve learned most people are not even aware when they’ve said something hurtful, damaging, or founded solely on falsehoods. People assume there is enough information in their own uneducated logic to form an accurate picture.
More and more doctors, researchers, school programs, and the media are working to educate the public to overcome this unnecessary disgrace.
Problem 1: Views are Extremely Distorted
Even though I was diagnosed as bipolar in the year 2000, it was something that I felt too embarrassed to talk about until fairly recently. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve been comfortable telling people besides family about my bipolar diagnosis. In my experience, I’ve heard various terms that are sometimes said about someone with a mental illness. They could include any or all of weak, weird, lazy or simply not able to handle everyday life.
The hardest part of living with a mental illness is the stigma that is in the world today. This unfortunate attitude makes living with these health issues so much worse than it needs to be. It creates feelings of shame, inferiority, failure and brokenness for the sufferers; not to mention discrimination and fear of treatments that can actually help us.
Congressman Patrick kennedy served 16 years in the U.S. Houes of Representatives and is predominantly known as the author and lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act of 2008. This dramatic piece of legislation provides tens of millions of Americans who were previously denied care with access to mental health treatment. Now, Congressman Kennedy is the co-founder of the One Mind for Research campaign, the next step in the effort to bring together scientists working in variohs domains of brain research toward a common goal.
Last week, The Institute of Mental Health in singapore started a campaign called Burst The Silence - to encourage people to talk about mental illness.
It made me think of when and why we choose to share our stories, those of us who have been touched by "mental illness".
Recently I wrote a commentary for a news story about a man with schizophrenia who has not gone home to celebrate the Lunar New Year with his family (a very big deal among asians) for 11 years because his condition was too unstable for him to leave the hospital.