When you read the statistics on the mental health phenomena, they will tell you that mental health is extremely prevalent in the adult population. An estimated 44.3 million American adults experience a diagnosable mental disorder each year. Approximately 18.8 million adults have a depressive disorder and over 19 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders. Millions of other people are dealing with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, substance abuse and other mental health problems. Mental illnesses can cause a person to have major difficulty functioning at their job, as a parent and in all areas of their lives. It is imperative for adults to be aware of their mental health and the mental health of their loved ones.
From these numbers, it seems like having a mental illness is an issue that everybody portraits, a norm, thus if it is so common, what that really means? perhaps that the abnormal is becoming normal? That the system is screwing us all? or that the paradigm should shift from diagnosing to preventing, re-vamping? Healing? Is it as the allergies in California, something you develop sooner or later once you have landed here? Is it, really, that prevalent or we are misusing and/or abusing diagnoses?
When abusing or misusing diagnoses we are increasing the stigma that is already linked to mental illness. There is the sense of general stigma from being different, weaker, suffering from depression, being a loser, having low self-esteem, ADD, not completing tasks, having anxiety or panic attacks, or to that matter any mental disorder found in the voluminous DSM V.
Once diagnosed or complaining about having a mental “issue”, well intentioned people would look at you and say things, like: I too have been sad but if you work hard, you’ll get out of it…well sometimes, you do not; or they will suggest you just try to lead a healthy and balance life, find your purpose, your meaning in life, follow your passion…Really? Some people cannot even get up and go, none the less find a passion to keep going. The stigma and the paralysis to act hits you really hard.
Having mental illness depicted in a negative side and represented in the media inaccurately and giving hurtful representations of its causes and consequences increase the stigma and discourage people suffering to seek help. NAMI StigmaBusters is a network of dedicated advocates across the country and around the world that seek to fight misleading representations of mental illness. Whether these images are found in TV, film, print, or other media, StigmaBusters speak out and challenge stereotypes. They seek to educate society about the reality of mental illness and the courageous struggles faced by consumers and families every day. Their goal is to break down the barriers of ignorance, prejudice, or unfair discrimination by promoting education, understanding, and respect.Each month, close to 20,000 advocates receive a NAMI StigmaBusters Alert, and it is read by countless others around the world online.
In a candid tale of her own depression, Dr. Elizabeth J. Griffin, MD, a pediatrician tells of her 40-year battle with severe depression, and the stigmatization she fell under. She says “Depression is overwhelming and overpowering, and it crushes its prey…’ Severely depressed persons grow convinced beyond any doubt whatsoever that our families would be better off if we were dead. We believe that only by suicide can we help them salvage whatever remnants of their lives we have not already destroyed, even if we actually have done nothing that would hurt them or anyone else….’ I believed that everyone felt and thought this way to some extent. I once explained some of this to one friend, a compassionate and extremely intelligent physician. He looked at me in amazement and said, “You do know, don’t you, how completely foreign everything you just said is to me?” In fact, learning just that was a real eye-opener for me, “a light-bulb moment.” Read her story Dr. Griffin has very interesting points to guide people in the process of “how to talk about depression:
- “…People with depression need someone to speak up when we cannot, especially to explain our illness to our loved ones. Most of us are too frightened and ashamed to talk about it. Unless we learn how to be open about depression, the stigma will remain, and people who need treatment will continue to avoid seeking it.
- If you have depression, tell someone you can trust and seek professional help. It is available—and it can help. Depression does not have to last forever; you really can get better with time and treatment…’
- If someone you care about is depressed, tell him you do care, that you love him, and that you want to understand and help. Tell her how important she is to you and what you admire about her. Tell him you want him and need him in your life, and that things will get better. Ask her to hang on until they do. Beg him to promise that he won’t do anything to hurt himself, that he will not commit suicide…’
- You may save the life of someone you love….”
As mental health providers, we are supposed to be the catalysts of personal growth, soul search, and redemption, we should never give up, labeling, or cast out people who are going through the dark night of the soul, redeeming one person is redeeming the world. Actually, this represents the traditional Jewish principle of Tikkun Olam that is the precept of the Jewish ethical principle that every person is worth saving. The Jewish path of walking through life, is a path of healing. Tikkun olam, the repair of the world, is a macrocosm of the tikkun atzmi, the inner process of healing. Healing, by definition, is the attempt to bring balance to both the inner and external healing processes and that, instead of labeling and pathologizing our clients, should be the role of the clinician. But more about Tikkun Olam in my next post. For now, let’s be a container for those who suffer from depression without judgement or biases, but with the right intervention, a listening ear, and a compassionate heart.
How to talk about depression
o People with depression need someone to speak up when we cannot, especially to explain our illness to our loved ones. Most of us are too frightened and ashamed to talk about it. Unless we learn how to be open about depression, the stigma will remain, and people who need treatment will continue to avoid seeking it.
o If you have depression, tell someone you can trust and seek professional help. It is available—and it can help. Depression does not have to last forever; you really can get better with time and treatment.
o If someone you care about is depressed, tell him you do care, that you love him, and that you want to understand and help. Tell her how important she is to you and what you admire about her. Tell him you want him and need him in your life, and that things will get better. Ask her to hang on until they do. Beg him to promise that he won’t do anything to hurt himself, that he will not commit suicide.
You may save the life of someone you love.
– See more at: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/suicide/what-depression-does-our-minds-when-it-attacks/page/0/2?GUID=&rememberme=1&ts=22072014#sthash.buAhOPkF.dpuf