From our perspective: It’s an illness, not an infection

Mental illness is becoming more diagnosable and prevalent in today’s society, yet it is still considered taboo. Our question is, why?

Photo from Creative Commons.

A mental illness is not usually a disability that can be prevented. It can also affect people at any age and of any race, religion or income. They aren’t the result of personal weakness, flaw in character or upbringing, and yet many people are outcast and displaced because they live with a mental illness. This would be like outcasting someone with cancer or diabetes. These people can’t prevent their illnesses just as much as a person with a mental illness can’t, but those diseases are far more socially acceptable.

Mental illness is widely misunderstood, so the general public tends to be afraid of the individuals who have this type of ailment. Thus, they shun people who are considered to be mentally ill. Unfortunately, the people who live with these illnesses are the ones who need the most support.

Serious mental illnesses include autism, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder.

The Whim staff feels that our society would be healthier if we were able to easily accept what a mental illness means, instead of just brushing it under the rug.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines mental illnesses as “medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.”

If more people understood that with support these people would be better able to function then it would be easier for everyone to live happy and healthy lives.

We also think that if mental illness weren’t such a taboo subject, then people wouldn’t be so afraid of being diagnosed with one. Thousands of cases of depression and panic disorders go undiagnosed every year because many people do not want to be associated with the disease and they don’t want their peers to think there is something wrong with them. This reaction could potentially be dangerous to the disposition of those going undiagnosed. Untreated depression can, in some cases, lead to suicide and substance abuse. Untreated panic disorders can lead to fear of public situations and anti-social behavior.

The National Institute of Mental Health recently reported that one out of every four adults experience a mental illness every year; that’s about 57.7 million people a year. It doesn’t just influence adults either. The U.S. Surgeon General reported that 10% of children and teens have a serious emotional and mental disorder that causes “significant functional impairment in their day-to-day lives,” and it affects their lives at home, their work in school and their relationships with peers.

There are all kinds of resources that are available to people who think they may be living with a mental illness, and those people are usually the ones who need the most help but are instead told to “get over it.” A mental illness is not something to just get over, and it cannot be overcome by willpower alone. We, as a society, need to step up and lend a hand to those in need instead of standing in their way.