We have all seen the horrific acts of violence on TV, the recent school shootings and most recently the Cleveland kidnappings. As we sit in horror in our safe living rooms and watch the details of the events unfolding right before our eyes, we try and understand the motives and mindset behind such heinous acts. Not long after the initial coverage of any event, we find ourselves glued to the latest “TV psychiatrist” that Nancy Grace just pulled out of her pocket, trying to gather some sense to the crimes. We watch and listen to their assessment and without a doubt jump to the conclusion that mental illness played a part in the decision to murder, or rape most violently, another human being. Well, to be fair to the public, unless a psychiatrist has done a complete forensic evaluation on the alleged criminal, gathered history on any previous criminal behavior and has access to any mental health records, that psychiatrist is doing a terrible injustice to the public. We cannot, however, put all the blame on these TV doctors, looking for a few minutes of fame, we also have to take a grain of salt before we put our trust in some TV anchors.
Browsing mental illness
Watching your loved one go through the ups and downs of a mental illness can be heartbreaking. The emotional pain that families go through when dealing with the grips of depression, bi-polar or schizophrenia (to name a few) is often overlooked and underestimated in today’s society. In some cases, family members feel as though the illness may even be their fault. Parents with adult children with a chronic mental illness often rehash their child’s history, with thoughts of “what went wrong, what did I miss”. These thoughts can be gripping and unforgiving. Is It the Parent’s Fault? The truth is that no parent can really prevent a child’s pre-disposed mental illness any more than the parent could have decided what color eyes his child should have. Accepting that the child may have to deal with the impact of mental illness for the rest of her life is the first step in the process of recovery. Letting go of the unnecessary guilt is crucial for a healthy future for both the parent and the child. Before any healing or any sense of normalcy can be achieved, these two steps need to take place.
As my 15th year working in the mental health field arrives, not only is my briefcase due for a major trade in, at times, there are days when I need a major “tune up” on myself. I look into my schedule and with a deep sign I see a name that sounds all too familiar. Could it be? Yes the daughter of a client I may have provided services to years earlier. There are times in your life when you had really wished you were not right. “I knew it!” I say under my breath with slight anger. I then go on in my selfish mind with thoughts about why someone with such a strong mental illness, with such infliction and difficulty in life would have a child knowing that the chances are pretty good that they will inherit the same type of illness. I then lightly shed a tear because I know the suffering they will face. I also forget that people with mental illness have the same desires, the same needs and the same dreams we all do. Then I feel something called “guilt”.
“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.