Mental Health Should Be a Priority

This post is kind of a brain dump. It’s also more serious than pretty much everything else I post.  

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Every post needs a picture and I have no idea what else to use

I’m happy that physical health is becoming such a priority in this country, what with all the federal and state initiatives that have been created. That is fantastic. We should focus on our physical health.

However, I only wish we made mental health as much of a priority.

There are a few people in my life who are very close to me and who I love dearly who battle with mental illness, and many friends who also have loved ones who battle their own mental health demons. While I myself have never been diagnosed with a mental health issue, I have gone to therapy when I needed it to work out some issues.

But we can’t deny that mental illness is a huge issue in our country. So much of what you see on the news is probably the result of someone with an undiagnosed and/or untreated mental illness. Most of the homeless who live on the streets of Chicago, the suburbs and other cities, have untreated mental illnesses. People who struggle with drug addiction. People who abuse other people or animals. Pedophiles. Etc. So much of what is “crazy” and “wrong” with our world can probably be traced back to an untreated mental illness.

Will our country ever take action like they have when it comes to physical health? Will people lobby their government for better mental health protections written into law or policy? Will we encourage everyone to take control of their mental health like we have with physical health? Will we encourage everyone get mental health screenings at the same rate we get physical ones? And make them affordable and accessible?

I don’t know. So many people just want to pretend mental illness doesn’t exist, that it’s no big deal. Sweep it under the rug, look the other way. Just suck it up.

But everyday, you turn on the news. Another crazy story.

Every time you walk through downtown Chicago. Another “crazy” homeless person.

Another celebrity suicide. Another drug addiction, or overdose. Just look at all the celebrities who instead of evoking our sympathy, and the encouragement of their loved ones to seek help, we just splash across magazine covers, and on tabloid TV shows. Their mental illness is a spectacle for our amusement.

Not to mention all of the people who suffer in silence. Who don’t outwardly show signs of mental illness, but are living a hell inside their own heads.

I really don’t have any answers, and I really don’t know what the point of this post is. I just wish we didn’t feel like we have to hide mental illness. I wish we could be open about it, like we are open with a diagnosis of cancer. Having a mental illness isn’t a weakness, any more than having diabetes or heart disease or cancer is. We celebrate people who survive those diseases. Why don’t we celebrate people who openly fight against their mental illness, and overcome it? And support those who struggle in their fight? And encourage everyone to get screened?

I have no answers, not even hope that someday our attitudes will change. I just have sadness.

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9 Comments on “Mental Health Should Be a Priority”

  1. An illness is an illness, whether it’s mental or not. Having suffered with ppd I know first hand how it feels when someone belittles your diagnosis. Like, would you treat me this way if I had cancer? I guess what I’m saying is I agree with what you’re saying.

    1. “Why don’t we celebrate people who openly fight against their mental illness, and overcome it? And support those who struggle in their fight? And encourage everyone to get screened?”

      I will always want to be open about it. I had postpartum depression. I asked for help and I survived.

      Sorry for the double comment. Your post struck a chord.

      1. I was actually thinking about you before I posted this, knowing how open you’ve been with your PPD. I think it’s so important to be open and honest and de-stigmatize what so many people go through (grouping all mental illnesses together). I think it can be a very isolating thing, and it doesn’t have to be, since it’s so much more common than we realize.

        1. There is help. There are resources of all kinds. One doesn’t have to suffer alone, even though it may feel that way. I think I feel a blog post a brewin’

  2. I think many people have suffered with it so long, they have no idea it isn’t normal, and if they feel they should find help, they think they will be judged. I also think almost everyone has some sort of a disorder, but prob a low amount.

  3. Wow, this is a really interesting topic. To respond to your thought about why we don’t celebrate people openly fighting and recovering from mental illnesses, I wonder if it’s because some of the stigma around them is that if you have one, you’re always living with it, so it’s not really something you fight and just get over, you know?

    Having a couple important people in my life who are suffering from a chronic physical illness and a pretty serious form of cancer respectively, what I notice is that neither of them really wants to be identified as just being someone with an ailment or disease. Which isn’t to say that they aren’t open about what they’re going through, but there’s more to them than just a person fighting an illness, so they don’t want to be defined that way. Having suffered a few bouts of depression myself, I guess that’s kind of how I feel about it. I’m happy to talk openly about it in a forum like this, where the topic has already been brought up, and I did recover from it each time, but it was never something I talked about with anyone but my closest friends and family members (and my doctor, of course) while going through it. I don’t disagree with your point that there should be more awareness and destigamitizing (that should really be a word), but I guess I can understand why people who are suffering might keep it to themselves.

    1. Thanks for your comment. That’s a good point that unlike certain diseases, mental illness is something you are always living with and battling. I don’t think we should ever identify something solely on a disease, but I wish it was something we could be more open about, instead of feeling like we had to hide it. And also that we could be more supportive of people in seeking and undergoing treatment. Maybe someday we can even do fundraising and events/walks/etc in support of mental health like we do the fight against cancer. Because mental illness can be just as devastating.

  4. I agree. Mental disease is a big issue, a lot of which is truly biochemical related/genetic, but I also feel that there are a lot of issues that contribute to mental “disease”, such as broken homes, widespread violence in videogames and movies, lack of spiritual/religious influence, etc. etc. etc. I think there needs to be better recognition of such symptoms of mental disease/imbalance, and more effort to intervene at an earlier age.

    In response to Anne’s comment, I think there needs to be better terminology for how we define mental problems. By calling it a “disorder” or “disease” automatically titles someone with an identity, which can be stigmatized. It’s a tough issue, because then how can you treat something if you can’t define it? I also don’t have any answers at this point.

  5. Really well said Maggie. I’m always encouraged when celebrities speak out about their struggles with mental illness so that the normal person who is suffering might see that and feel it is ok to get help. At the same time, parents need to be secure enough to bring their kids in for testing/treatment if something is wrong. I believe too many parents feel their kid is “normal” even though they display many signs of mental illness. Without help, these kids end up as non functioning members of society, some of which go on to do heinous things.

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