There are so many different things that I wish people would understand with regards to mental illness and/or mental health.
But then aren’t there just so many thing which some people just don’t seem to understand about mental illness and/or mental health?
And as with a lot of things concerning human behavior – where there are misunderstandings don’t injustices so often usually follow?
But if I had to highlight just one – or even two – things they would be things.
We didn’t choose this…
Consider, if you will, the following scenario…
A group of people – of which you are one – are sat talking and one of them is sharing a recent experience they had had…
“It was awful. It was like someone or something had taken over. What I didn’t know, at that time and what we have only just found out. Was that someone had given slipped a mind altering drug into my drink.
It’s so hard to explain what happened or to even describe how strange everything was. Because everything that was happening to me seemed so real and because I wasn’t able to think properly just seemed normal to me. What was so very abnormal seemed so very normal.
I think on some levels, I must have known that something, somehow was wrong. But somehow I wasn’t able to connect with that. I just couldn’t connect with the fact that things were somehow different.
My mood changed, my thoughts changed, heck even my behavior changed. I thought things, perceived things, reacted to things in a totally different way to how I would usually react to them and people started seeing me, reacting to me, treating me differently as a result of it.
Relationships which I had had for years started to suffer and because I couldn’t grasp what was going on, I didn’t understand what was happening or why they were being that way.”
I wonder what reactions you would expect from the folk hearing that story? I wonder what your reaction would be?
Perhaps you would expect reactions along the line of…
“Oh no! That’s awful! You poor thing!” or “Wow! That must have been so hard on you!”. Or how about: “How could anyone do that to you? I mean slip something into your drink like that?”
Or perhaps you would expect them to be concerned and/or curious and to ask more questions…
“And you weren’t really able to put together that something was wrong?” or “How long did it last? Are things better now?” or “And how are things now? Now that people understand what was happening to you, are your relationships better?”
These are all perfectly logical and perfect reasonable responses to the person who had been slipped the mind altering drug, aren’t they?
So what makes that scenario – the scenario of the presence of a mind altering drug – so very different to a scenario of the presence of a mind altering illness or a mind altering condition? Because trust me, when it comes to how people react or respond to those two scenarios, sadly there are all too often some very real differences.
Is it the length of time involved? Is it the fact that that person is now ‘back to being their normal self’? Is it the fact that that person never chose this? That they were in fact a victim?
In truth, the person in the scenario above did not choose to have that happen to them. And in truth, those of us who suffer mental illness or poor mental health didn’t choose it either!
Each individual who experiences mental illness or poor mental health is exactly that – an individual…
One of the most harmful responses to mental illness or poor mental health, as far as I can see, is that of stereotyping and treating each and every sufferer as a group and not recognizing that all groups are made up from a collection of individuals.
Certainly there are commonalities within the group – which identify them as a group – but they are still a collection of individuals and we need to understand that and to remember that.
In one or more areas of your life, you are probably a member of a group. If you are a member of a family then that family can be seen as a group. If you go to school your class is a group, your year is a group, your school is a group, even the fact that you are at school makes you a part of a group. Perhaps you work? If so, you and your work colleagues are a group. Perhaps you go to church? That church is a group. Groups are common place and there is nothing wrong or unusual about that.
But what if how you were treated was specific only to the fact that you are part of that group? What if folk looked down on you – no matter what you did or achieved in life – purely because of you being a member of your family? What if you were treated badly, or mistrusted, or rejected purely because of; your nationality, or your skin color, or your hair-color, or your gender, or your age? (And yes the list goes on, doesn’t it?) Wouldn’t you believe that to be unfair? To be unjust? To be unhealthy?
I think that for me personally, out of all the possible things I would like people to understand about mental illness or poor mental health, those are the two which are most on my heart today.
And from them, come the following statement and question…
Those of us who have mental illness(es) or who experience poor mental health face the realities of how our mental illness(es) or poor mental health effects us as individuals, almost every single day. We (and our families and loved ones) have to face it and we have to deal with it and we try, when able, to do so in the most healthy and productive way.
My question is, “When will society do the same?”