“Loony tune”, “psycho” and “nuts”. All these words I have heard over and over again to describe people with mental health issues.
What people do not realize is that their neighbor, friend or co-worker probably has been diagnosed with a mental illness. Most people who struggle with a mental illness often go throughout the day without exhibiting a single symptom.
Depression, anxiety and bi-polar are all quite common mental illnesses. The vast majority of these people function at a very high level, holding successful jobs, caring for a family and still enjoying all of the things others do.
The more chronic and persistent of the mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, are less common and do carry more of a stigma.
However, I am sure the general public would be alarmed at how much success someone with schizophrenia can have in his life if the right support team is in place.
Mental Illness and Propensity to Violence
It is a common myth that people who suffer from psychotic symptoms are violent or dangerous, when actually statistics reveal that only about 2% of people with schizophrenia are violent and it is often due to the illness being untreated.
The media tends to spotlight violence done by people with mental illness much more so than those people who commit violent acts without a mental illness.
If we were to be “notified” of every criminal violent act done by someone without a mental health disorder, we would certainly get a clearer picture of where the real danger lies.
In My Experience
In my years as a case manager for people with chronic persistent mental illness, one of my biggest gripes was having to explain that people with these disorders did not “bring it on themselves” or that the infliction was caused by bad parenting.
These myths are simply not true. Most of the time, these disorders were simply inherited, you often find that an uncle or great grandparent also suffered from these symptoms as well.
We don’t know what “triggers” the onset; most psychiatrists believe it is age. We see people starting to exhibit symptoms usually in their early twenties.
Stress can often increase the likelihood of the onset around that time in someone‘s life. Certainly people with these conditions have not asked for them.
I recall one mother telling me:
“After my son got diagnosed with schizophrenia, it was like my son died and we only have a stranger living in his body.”
That would be a gut wrenching emotion to say the least. Watching a loved one become ill in front of them and watching their dreams fade is not something any family member wants to be blamed for.
I can tell you with certainty, the process of accepting your child has been diagnosed with such a profound and debilitating illness is a very hard ordeal for anyone.
I think it is best to refrain from judgment of people with these illnesses. Mental illness does not discriminate. It could penetrate any one of our families or even ourselves. I can assure you people with mental health issues struggle enough without having to defend against unnecessary misperceptions.