20 Things Only People Who Live With Mental Illness Can Understand
If you live with a mental illness, you really have a tough battle on your hands. The stigma attached to this illness can result in isolation, discrimination, and hostility. The fact that mental illnesses are all grouped together in one lump does not help either. The conditions in this category can range from depression, psychosis, personality disorders, PTSD, ADHD to more serious cases where suicidal and homicidal tendencies can lead to violence and death.
Here are 20 things you will have no trouble in relating to if you experience a mental illness as they are probably a daily experience.
1. You are shunned
If your moods are on a rollercoaster due to having bipolar disorder, your social contacts may tend to avoid you. You wonder why
mood swings are rarely noted or talked about.
2. You get no sympathy
Anyone who has a serious medical condition like cancer gets a lot of attention. Because you are severely depressed, sometimes it can feel like nobody wants to know and you get no sympathy at all. In fact, it is rare that anyone will ever ask about your depression but they will know everything about cancer treatment and rates of recovery.
3. You have to keep your condition a secret
Why not let everyone know what you have suffered? You must be joking! Who wants to have that label hanging around their neck when discrimination and misunderstanding about this illness are widespread?
4. You have very little chance of getting a job
Job discrimination against the mentally ill is rife. We know that only 18% of those with mental health issues are in full time employment. You know of cases where people have to sign a contract agreeing to be sacked if you are of “unsound mind”, according to the Mental Health Act in the UK. You know you may not always fit the image of the ideal employee but adjustments should be made by employers.
5. You get no special treatment
People who get physically ill or are absent from work are all well looked after. There are no special cases for mentally ill people who are not supposed to have any relapses at all.
6. You are regarded as weird
You know all the stereotypes about mentally ill people which are widely transmitted by the press and on TV. You are tired of being called crazy and wish for more understanding.
7. You are tired of all the ignorance
Nobody bothers to learn more about what being mentally ill really means. Yet, one in four people suffer from these problems but nobody wants to know.
8. You are fed up with people’s embarrassment
In one UK survey, about 30% of the respondents stated that they felt embarrassed by mentally ill people. Over 80% stated that they were sure that the majority of people in general felt ill at ease in their presence. The only good news is that the Time to Change organisation in the UK has noted a 6% improvement in attitudes and prejudices about mental illness in the period 2011-2014.
9. You cannot get proper health insurance
Most insurance policies do not cover mental illness as it is far too common and the companies would collapse. You know of one man who had clinical depression and was left to pay off debts of $10,000 because his policy did not cover depression.
10. You hate people whispering
Everyone lowers their voices when talking about addiction and suicide. You hear them all the time at the supermarket but they talk loudly about someone who has had cancer. What is so risky about (PTSD) post traumatic stress disorder? Is it contagious?
11. You are exploited by sales persons
They have no hesitation in going for the kill even though they know that you may have some issues about understanding what a contract really involves. They have no compunction in getting you to sign. No wonder so many mentally ill people are homeless, in debt or in prison.
12. You are let down by medical staff
Many doctors are unsympathetic and you are not in the least surprised that 60% of mentally ill patients are not getting any treatment at all.
13. You wonder when health authorities will wake up
Why are medical and paramedical staff not trained properly to deal with us? Why are we always treated so unfairly? It is no surprise that the Disability Discrimination Act (UK) does not cover mental illness.
14. You wonder about getting proper treatment
As you struggle with reduced capacity to get through the ordinary daily routine, you wonder why your medical condition is often treated with disdain and shoulder shrugging. You begin to wonder why more research has not been done to make treatment more effective.
15. You have problems with self-esteem
It is a downward spiral because unemployment can lead to homelessness. Experts believe that jobs and medication are the keys to helping people with these issues. Mental illness should not go hand in hand with low self esteem.
16. You need more post treatment support
Supportive housing with adequate provision for proper medical care is the way to go. One study showed that when people were in these units there was a 58% fall in the number of emergency room visits. I know of several patients with schizophrenia who are benefiting from this type of support.
17. You are not getting equal human rights
In the USA, mentally ill persons are 10 times more likely to end up in prison instead of in a psychiatric ward. Many advocates for better mental health care regard this as a violation of human rights and that prisons are nothing more than concentration camps for the mentally ill.
18. You resent the class and racial stereotypes
You know that mental illness is not a class or race issue. It is the great leveller, like death.
“Mental illness is an equal opportunity illness – it strikes across all barriers of race and class. Yet the public perception is still the disheveled person on the street.”- Michael Allen, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C.
19. You are not just a problem
Whatever your condition, you are a real person with needs, desires, hopes and emotions just like any other human being on the planet. Just because one part of your mind is malfunctioning you should not be condemned to live on the margins of society.
20. You hope you will get more social support
We know that when mentally ill prisoners are released, 50% of them will re-enter prisons within a three year period. Rehabilitation programs and strong social support are needed to lower this alarming figure.
Let us hope that people’s attitudes and government initiatives will help to make mentally ill patients’ lives better.
“Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When “I” is replaced by “We”, illness becomes wellness.” – Shannon L. Adler