Let’s talk mental health without focusing on labels for a change. There are many informative sources which can provide thorough descriptions and examples of mental health disorders so I won’t go into detail about them. I will mention them periodically and provide references for you to gain descriptive explanations if you need clarity. What I want to do is talk about it so we can reduce the stigma attached to mental health or specifically mental illness. It is so taboo to discuss mental illness because of the stigma associated with it which is sustained by the media and society in general. Many believe that if you have a mental illness you are “crazy” and somehow not worthy to be deemed a “productive member of society”. FYI: I use quotes with certain words because I take into consideration that everyone has different perceptions of different concepts so what is crazy to one may not be crazy to the other. What is considered productive to one may not be considered productive to the next person etc. etc. It actually is okay but according to society’s standards and values not so much.
We often get caught up in thinking that we must adopt certain beliefs and values which defy our own personal beliefs as if we even know what they are due to conditioning. Societal beliefs and values shape standards which we have been conditioned to believe. Key word here is “conditioned”. Hold that thought…Mental illness is so taboo in our society which is why many people do not seek help when they need it. Also, the labels can sometimes serve the purpose of putting people in a box making them feel inferior to everyone else. Everyone else consists of those we consider “normal” in society. That word “normal” is really more complex than most think it is as well. What is “normal” anyway?…Hold it and let it marinate…
So amidst all of this holding and marinating, I think it is safe to say that we as a society have been conditioned to believe that people with mental illness cannot be “normal, productive members of society”. Somehow having a mental illness deems them unworthy. Clearly, there are people with serious mental illness whose disorders prevent them from being able to work and/or require hospitalization. These are the exceptions. They are also perceived to be the token mentally ill individuals who are exploited for the eccentricity of their symptoms. This appeals to the masses because as we all know anything eccentric get lots of attention these days. In many cases, overexposure occurs and leads to a misconception of what mental illness looks like. This is the image of the mentally ill individual portrayed in the movies and on television. What we don’t give attention to is the large amount of seriously mentally ill individuals who are “high functioning”.
Yes, people can be mentally ill with high IQs, hold some of the most reputable jobs including doctor,lawyer, therapist (YES!!), successful actors and actresses, and can also maintain households. Sad part is that many go undiagnosed because according to them and society they do not need help because they fit the mold of what is deemed “normal”. Normal consists of being able to hold a job, maintain relationships, and carry on with daily tasks with no “issues” as mentioned above. This is the portion of the population that is overlooked when considering psychiatric treatment. Contrary to popular opinion these individuals are still in need of treatment as much as those who are “lower functioning”.
This is a very gray area as there are many factors to keep in mind to determine the need for treatment in general. Remember this the next time you assume that just because your child who made honor roll all throughout school but displayed obvious symptoms of depression did not need therapy. At some point repressed issues will come to the surface and when not dealt with accordingly this can lead to an explosion. All that glitters is not gold. We have to look beneath the surface sometimes because that is where source of many people’s problems are located. This is why psychological evaluations require a full psychosocial evaluation in which all aspects of a person’s life are considered including childhood history. What happens during childhood is a contributing factor to what happens in our adulthood. This will be revisited in a future post because there is so much to elaborate on.
There are many who just opt out of seeking professional help period. Either way these are very unfortunate situations as the worse case scenario could be avoided if people would seek help asap. Asap being when they begin to notice mood and behavioral changes before it gets to the point of harming themselves and/or others. This would be ideal but just not possible for everyone. These are some of the risk factors associated with not having access to mental health treatment. There are clear signs which indicate a need to seek psychiatric treatment. You can find a general description of symptoms that would indicate a need for a psychological evaluation here.
Be mindful that the earlier you seek help the better off you will be. Just as with any situation, the longer things pile up and pile up without being cleaned out or emptied the bigger the mess will become. This leads to confusion, disorder (hence the term mental disorder), and an explosion as mentioned earlier. Eventually, this pile will overflow. Consider this “pile” when you think of how the brain and body endures years and years of pent up, unresolved issues due to biological, psychological, and environmental factors.
Biological influences include imbalanced brain chemistry,inherited traits, and prenatal damage due to exposure to toxins. Psychological influences include severe psychological trauma such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse, neglect or an important early loss such as the death of a parent at a young age. Many do not realize how much childhood trauma affects us emotionally and behaviorally later on in adulthood. Other psychological factors include impaired ability to relate to others. Take parents who raise their children based on belief systems which are inherently irrational as they perpetuate a negative or detrimental perception of reality. An example is when a mother who was raped at night forces the belief onto her children that going out at night is completely dangerous and should be avoided. Her children grow up with a fear of going out at night despite having positive experiences going out at night. Ultimately, if these issues are not addressed the end result could be self-destruction. This can be a slow and painful process for all involved.
MayoClinic, WebMd, NIMH, NAMI, and PsycheCentral are all reputable sources for mental health information. Use them wisely but do NOT attempt to diagnose yourself with a mental health disorder. This must and only must be done by a mental health professional who is licensed and/or certified to do so or permitted to do so under the supervision of a psychiatrist.