Mental Illness in Today’s Society
Mental illness is a topic that some people would consider controversial. Some might say that those who suffer from a mental illness are not fit to function in society. Others would say that they are people who have overcame an obstacle that has stunted them in some way. The actual definition of a mental illness reads: a disorder that can cause psychological and behavioral disturbances with varying severities. This explanation while appears frightening in actuality only states that those who suffer from a mental illness are simply living in a different state of mind and thinking. This however is not always bad, as thinking differently can be a pro in today’s society. One would think that someone with a mental illness is crazy or not suitable for certain aspects of life, to that statement the only word I can say is that it’s ignorant. As a society, we should push on the idea that therapy can and should be an option for those who have endured traumatic experiences.
Whether we like to admit it or not, society definitely plays a huge role in how mental illness is depicted. Many people worldwide suffer from some form of mental illness. It’s definitely not uncommon to know someone or be someone who has a mental illness. While it is considered an illness, that doesn’t always incapacitate that person from doing their daily activities and routines. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults (aged 18+) in the United States alone. That number would be equal to filling up the city of New York roughly about four times. If 40 million Americans suffer some degree of mental illness, they must function well and hold down jobs for the most part; otherwise, we’d have a hard time holding our society together. Anxiety while it can be considered a defect, does not define a person and it can be treated and overcome with professional help. While this specific disorder is highly treatable, only about 37% of those affected seek help. Other disorders include: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Specific Phobias, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and the list goes on. What we can infer is that it’s perfectly common to live in today’s world with a mental illness.
How does one develop a mental disorder you might ask, well it varies from a complex set of factors that include: genetics, brain chemistry, personality & life events. The majority of the time, the cause for a mental disorder usually comes from life events and/or personality. Another thing that isn’t normally discussed is that some people who suffer from a mental illness usually suffer from more than one. Should it be anxiety and depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, depression and bipolar disorder, or even all three! So many people suffer from multiple ones but they are living with it and yet still prospering in life. Having these mental illnesses’ can only further drive a person to want to be successful in life, to prove society wrong and come out on top.
James P. McNulty wrote an article titled Commentary: Mental Illness, Society, Stigma, and Research. In said article, McNulty is a middle aged man who suffers from bipolar disorder. McNulty started off his article with a definition of stigma which reads: A mark of disgrace or infamy upon a person or thing. As McNulty grew older, his mood swings would worsen. It would eventually lead up to him unable to work, ending his marriage, losing his business and becoming homeless. The only asset that McNulty still owned was his car, he would eventually be living out of it when he became homeless. After a suicide attempt at the age of 38, McNulty decided to reach out for State help for his bipolar disorder. McNulty was suggested to sell his last owning asset, his four-year old car to increase the chance of being considered as one of the state’s patients. When he asked how he would travel back and forth from work once rehabilitated he was told “Don’t worry about going back to work. People like you don’t go back to work.” This was McNulty’s first experience with stigma regarding his mental illness. Stigma towards people who suffer from mental illnesses have pernicious and deleterious effects. This misconception that McNulty experienced is not precise at all as it is inferencing that those with a mental disorder are forever damaged and cannot be helped. Many changes need to be made to acknowledge those who have a mental illness are not crazy and are simply human beings who struggle a little bit more than usual but can definitely still get the job done. McNulty goes on to speak about seeing an article published in the Daily Trentonian which featured an image of a burning psychiatric hospital with the title “Roasted Nuts”. Jokes like the one presented in the Daily Trentonian are not only disrespectful to hard-working people who overcome their diagnosis, but also clearly inaccurate. Advocacy communities for mental health awareness and professionals alike did not appreciate the desensitized article.
While there are many negative effects that come with having a mental illness, staying positive and finding the good from having a mental illness graciously help. Anna Lente published an article titled 12 Benefits of Having a Mental Illness that lists twelve reasons why those with a mental illness should try to find the good and helpfulness that comes with this burden. The twelve benefits are listed below:
- The deep friendship/brotherhood with diverse and beautiful warriors of mental illness
- Being able to encourage others
- Appreciating small acts of kindness
- Appreciating the good days
- Knowing who your real friends are
- Being ready to handle whatever life throws at them
- Inspiring creativity
- Teaches those to think creatively to solve problems
- Makes life more interesting
- That sense of brokenness allows others to be real/open with you
- The emotional strength and courage gained by managing a mental illness
- Being better equipped to be a counselor
This list proves that even though one is at constant battle within themselves, people who have mental illnesses matter and actually do think of those around them. Being able to find a way to help others while sometimes not being able to help yourself is extremely selfless and inspiring. I only hope to one day be able to extend this form of gratitude upon others when needed and to continue for as long as humanly possible.
Facts & Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2020, from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
Lente, A. (n.d.). 12 Benefits of Having a Mental Illness. Retrieved October 10, 2020, from https://themighty.com/2017/05/benefits-of-having-a-mental-illness/
McNulty, J. P. (n.d.). Commentary: Mental Illness, Society, Stigma, and Research. Retrieved October 10, 2020, from https://bit.ly/2Uybv4w