Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Persons with mental illness are brave

Reaction Paper 2
The video of Elyn Saks from youtube.com that we viewed in class caught my attention and I had many thoughts and feelings regarding the video. So much so that I went home and shared the video with my fiancĂ©. We discussed the video in depth and he shared new insights with me. Watching a woman who is so successful and yet a woman who suffers from a mental illness that many would fall broken to. Her strength is grand and inspiring to watch, her story needing to be heard. 

The idea that a person with a mental illness cannot succeed professionally or in any aspect of their lives is obscene and unneeded. Did she struggle when the illness was at its worst? Yes, of course she did, but she rose above with the help of psychotherapy. The ideas of those she spoke with, regarding mentally ill persons reflects the views of many of the population. Many believe that those who suffer with mental illness don’t mind being strapped down, but those restraints are often uncalled for, and the persons with mental illness are still humans. She pointed admitted how she isn’t so different from those people being strapped down to control them because she suffers as well, but in the  eyes of people who don’t know about her mental illness, it seems she could not be anything like those who suffer mental illness; her higher education and status in society makes it seem impossible that she too could suffer from a chronic and severe condition. It seems like it surprises people to hear about members of society who are in higher paying positions that suffer or have suffered in the past from mental illness. 

On the other side you hear about common professions where a mental breakdown is almost expected such as those known as celebrities or those in the media spotlight. Britney Spears broke down and shaved her head when the pressure became to much. Kurt Cobain committed suicide and has gone down in history with Heath Ledger and others, and after each breakdown or suicide there follows a few days of absolute shock, but then come reports of how those who were close to the person watched them slide downhill and break before their eyes. 

To many people it’s okay to place a person who suffers from mental illness in a box, and leave them isolated from the majority of the world; yet those who battle an internal illness of the mind may be the strongest in society. Imagine fighting your own thoughts every day just to get out of bed, or eat a meal, let alone drive to work, spend upwards of nine hours there dealing with tasks and other people, drive home, shower, care for other family members, go to bed, and do it over again the next day. Or consider the person who goes to therapy every other day after work to keep in control of their life. Imagine the person who has panic attacks just by walking into a room where there are people and must now lead a discussion group. There are people who “suffer” mental illness every day and those people are the ones who are pushing the world to work and keep progressing. Maybe it’s time to call those with mental illness out to run our world. 

Eric’s comment:
You make some important observations here.  

1) Mental illness is frequently overlooked because it does not always manifest in ways we easily perceive. Thus, persons who appear to be very successful or high status may suffer from mental illness without people being aware of their struggles. 

2) We have a tendency to dehumanize persons suffering from mental illness, subjecting them to unnecessary restraints, or dismissing them as dangerous, or as failures.  However, persons with mental illness may use more courage, fortitude, and mental strength in their inner lives than those who sail along through life without the problems associated with facing a mental illness.

3) Social work values force us to consider how persons with mental illness may be good role models, or we may use our social work perspectives to see that persons with mental illness offer strengths that could make contributions to others.

4) Sometimes when people have mental health problems, the people around them don’t know what to do for them.

I would like to point out that for most people with mental illnesses, a cure would be most welcome.  the fact that anyone must endure a chronic and severe mental illness is a great tragedy.  Of course we may find some ways to appreciate the nobility of how people cope with mental illness, and their struggles against diseases of the mind may give people opportunities to accomplish things that make a great different in their lives.  In some sense, all problems in our lives are cases that allow us to demonstrate our quality, or help us grow and develop. 

 Persons with a mental illness are perhaps very much like people with the flu, or persons with cancer, or persons with heart disease.  They may recover or enjoy a cure, or they may suffer for the rest of their lives.  But, just as almost everyone sometimes has a physical illness, diseases of the mind or brain abnormalities strike almost everyone at some point.  Depression or some related mood disorder, or an anxiety disorder, or a substance dependence, or a learning disability, or some other sort of mental illness, perhaps mild and not especially dramatic as a source of impairment to functioning, afflicts almost all of us at one time or another.  The psychotic disorders tend to be the most florid and interesting, although personality disorders and dissociative disorders are quite intriguing as well. Sometimes when people speak about persons with mental illnesses it seems they really only mean these sorts of things.  

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