Mental Illness: When Will We End the Stigma of Asking for Help? by Kathy Ast
Being a passenger in a reckless car ride, left alone in a roach-infested apartment with strangers, being told “pretend I’m not here” when the post-mania high wears off and day sleep takes over. These are some effects of having a mother with bipolar disorder. She wouldn’t see a psychiatrist because she didn’t want that “stain” on her record.
I am saddened about Anthony Bourdain, on the heels of fashion designer Kate Spade. Is this unusual? Not according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who says, “Suicide rates continue to rise dramatically for adults in the U.S. … Overall, there were almost 45,000 total deaths by suicide in 2016 alone.” Untreated mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of gender, skin color or size of one’s bank account.
According to Dr. Joan Cook in an article on TheHill.com, in many cases, people don’t recognize they are in psychological distress and that their symptoms can be managed. Or they want to handle the problem on their own. They may have sleeping problems, headache or GI problems, when the underlying cause is depression or anxiety.
The stigma of having a mental health disorder in our society is still great. People may be afraid to seek help for fear of being labeled crazy, lazy or bad. The more people that talk about their struggles, the more the stigma will dissipate.
Kids need role models who talk about their illness, like Mariah Carey just did about her bipolar disorder. “I didn’t want to believe it,” Mariah told People magazine. I applaud her and ask others to do the same. You never know who you might save – a child who’s suffering or an adult on the brink of suicide.
Mariah said, “I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone. It can be incredibly isolating. It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.” Yes!!
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