Readers of this blog will know that by day, I’m a Mobile Crisis Therapist. By night, I’m a writer of the weird and wacky. I have a lot of experience with mental illness, both in my job and with people that I know and love.
A lot of people I meet have a number of misconceptions about mental illness, and I’d like to take a moment to look at some of the more common ones I see.
1. If you’re mentally ill, you’re “crazy.”- Not true. People with mental illness often have a chemical imbalance in the brain causing cognitive and emotional disturbances. An estimated 46% of adults will struggle with some type of mental illness in the course of their lives(NIMH, 2005). This can range from a temporary depression or anxiety to more serious disorders, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
2. Most people who are mentally ill are drug addicts, and that’s why they’re crazy.- Not really. Many people who struggle with mental illness do turn to drugs as a way of self-medicating. They feel horrible all the time and need some way to escape it. Because many people are undereducated about mental illness, it can be hard to know where to get help. Families and friends often want their loved one to get over it, and they can’t. Drug use can cause mental health like symptoms, but most people who get addicted to drugs started as a way to feel better. And let’s face it, most people don’t do drugs unless they’re looking for an escape and a way out.
3. If I take medication, that’s like giving up.- So not true! There are many people walking around right now who have struggled with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or an addiction, and you’d never even know it. People take medication as a way to regulate their brain chemistry, and I believe it works best in conjunction with a therapist they trust. It can be hard to feel better. Let’s face it; most of us can’t afford a tropical vacation or time at a spa. We still have to work, shop for groceries, drive on the road and not get killed. Taking medication temporarily or permanently can be a way to manage those thoughts and feelings. You’d take medication for high blood pressure or diabetes, wouldn’t you?
I’d like to see mental illness and addiction addressed in fiction. Let’s face it, with 46% of the population struggling with a mental illness at some point, it makes sense that it would touch a main character’s life. And notice, the term I use is “mental illness.” If you’re ill, you can get better. A mental illness isn’t a death sentence. It’s just one more thing in life to deal with.
I’m done for now. I’ve included the link of my source to the NIMH and for the National Association for Mental Illness, if you’re interested in additional reading. Coming up in the very near future, I’m going to write a top 10 list about the best books about mental illness.