Mental Health Issues

It is no secret that television made millions of people frightened of those with mental illness, particularly children, in a get-the-ratings “sweeps” month. You may have seen a popular–and highly credible–newsmagazine show videotape of “violent” children with bipolar. You may have seen the law dramas which depicted a bipolar woman as a “zombie”, or the one which showed an adoptive mother of a son with mental illness yelling to the adoption agency, “You gave me a monster!” One newsmagazine even did a piece on bipolar Beach Boy Brian Wilson, juxtaposing his “well” days with videos showing how the illness had ravaged him.

Now is the time, then, to remind ourselves that an increase in stigmatizing TV shows means there are people behind the shows: the producers and writers trying to air what the public wants to watch. If the media is showing mental illness in a poor light, it does not predict easy times for those of us who suffer from it. It means the perpetuation of stigma toward us.

Over time, AIDS has become discussable and has garnered more support and understanding among society. Yet mental illness has been stigmatized practically since time began. Why? It is a fear basically founded on the idea that society’s greatest fear has said to be death; fear of mental illness runs second. Often we wonder how much longer we will have to wait for the fair treatment we deserve. But it takes more than waiting– we each can participate in stigma-busting activities and improve our outlook on life at the same time.

Once we understand it, we can either change it, or we can strive for a higher level of wellness and functioning and, yes, prove them wrong. In groups, we might choose to start a bipolar band, or act in or direct a play with a bipolar cast. As we show the public how creative we can be, we help break down stigma.

There are recognized paths to wellness. The first thing we should do is seek treatment, stay with it, and stay on meds. Approximately 50% of those suffering from mental illness do not currently seek treatment, according to the Washington Post. And from most reports, the results can be an uneccessary nightmare.

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