Mental Health issues are often misunderstood and this happens to be Mental Health Awareness Week. Each May, the Mental Health Foundation designates one week to campaign for public awareness. Questions are being asked if mental health conditions are understood in the society in which we live today. Noel Moore, Secretary of South Copeland Disability Group, said that it is clearly not understood; many believe if you cannot see it, then it probably does not exist. Chief Officer of Mind in Furness, Karen Dobson, also commented that despite efforts to offer groups like Time to Change, Mind, and Rethink, which can help individuals and families, much of society is still unaware of how mental illness affects people.
Organizations like Mind in Furness are available to offer support to any individual who is struggling with any type of emotional discomfort or anxiety, and this help comes with total confidentiality and no judgment. Unfortunately, many people are suffering, but are reluctant to seek help because of the stigma that is attached to mental illness for fear of being discriminated against.
Joyce Bosnjak is a former psychiatric nurse who is currently working on a council to help champion mental health. Joyce has a heart to educate the next generation, extend compassion to those with mental health concerns and to dismantle the myths that are attached to them. Progress in the mental health arena may be slow, but it is changing so that what was often misunderstood can now be understood.
In times past, if someone had what was thought to be a serious mental problem, they were “put away.” In other words, they would be shuffled off to a facility and locked away from society. Institutionalization became the normal solution; however, that is not the norm today. Nila McKinley, program director of Shining Reflections, said there are many misconceptions about the mentally ill being dangerous to those in society. She declared that such a fear is simply unfounded. Also from Shining Reflections, Executive Director Tom Volino, commented, “They are not whatever another might say that they are, instead they are simply a person with a diagnosis–not that different from a person with a physical diagnosis.”
To level the playing field, it is factual that whether one suffers from a physical illness or a mental illness, it was divvied out through a gene pool, which is why the doctor always wants to know the family history. Genetically, one person can be predisposed to brain cancer and another person can be predisposed to schizophrenia. Both diseases have to do with the brain, yet they are viewed very differently. The brain cancer is diagnosed as a physical illness, while the schizophrenia is diagnosed as a mental illness. The individual with the brain cancer will receive sympathy, while the individual with schizophrenia is likely to experience shame. Stephen Fry, resident of Mind, feels that it is humanity’s burden to remove the shame and embrace those with the diagnosis of mental illness. To do so would level the playing field, in the field of health–all health.
Currently, the mental health field is underfunded. This is expected to change as US Representative Vern Buchanan (R-Longboat Key), is pushing legislation known as Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Reformation of this nation’s mental health system is the goal. Buchanan acknowledged that mental illness knows no discrimination, and noted that it affects one in four adults. A yearlong congressional investigation has been thoroughly reviewed in an attempt to better allocate funds for mental health.
Although diseases of the brain are referred to as mental illness, what is being promoted is mental health. Options to assist those who are diagnosed have changed and improvements are forthcoming. Many diagnosed with mental illness have lived productive lives and have contributed much. Many such people have been entrepreneurs, politicians, musicians, writers, and actors. More specifically, those of notoriety would include President Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway and Michelangelo, just to name a few. So even though mental health has been often and at times vastly misunderstood, education to society and changes in treatment are making positive changes.
By Jill Boyer-Adriance