Welcome back. Have I thanked you recently for reading us? Thank you. Because of you, we have seen amazing things happen. We have been contacted by other foundations, who have worked with us to form their own blog that combines the expertise of doctors with the life experiences of their community members. We have been approached to produce a Vlog, and we have been asked permission to link us to other sites, primarily mental health sites. This is huge.
This month, we talked about Chronic Illness, and I overwhelmingly received submissions around mental health issues. I went with MAP’s blog, because his experience was not only real, but he had the courage to tell it like it is. He stated, “I have come up with several different plans on how to end my life, and even how to take a few people with me when I would act.” Now, this statement may have shocked many…but I believe more than “many” of you related to it in a very personal way.
Because of this, I’ve decided to write my end of the month blog on Mental Illness, as a chronic health condition.
So grab a Cup of Coffee and let’s chat…
Year after year, we see mass shootings, and we ask, “what happened?”. MAP gave us a very clear picture of “what happened”. For some reason, our mental health is seen as ‘“different” from our physical health. It’s taboo to talk about it. There are even doctors who don’t feel comfortable with the fact that our minds are indeed part of our body, and chronic mental illness is no different than chronic physical illness. They are the same. They both deserve treatment. There is no reason a person should feel ashamed of talking to their doctor about their health, and whether it’s vaginal warts or thoughts about hurting yourself or others, it’s all the same topic…your body.
The small town of Canby, Oregon recently experienced an earth shaking event. Two local teens took their own lives. One walked out in front of a train. The entire town was traumatized. Yellow ribbons came out, signs of encouragement adorned the local businesses and lawn signs were purchased. “You matter” “You are not alone”. Teachers wept, community members baked them cookies and sent cards and flowers, because teachers are people too. Then an amazing thing happened. A mental health community support group was formed. A woman by the name of Charity Wright stepped forward, and put together a private Facebook page, where people who live with mental health issues (either themselves or their loved ones) could come together…support each other. This then turned into a face to face support group in the little town that could. One by one, people joined, and one by one, support and validation was given. “You are not alone” Indeed. If only every town took this type of action after a tragedy.
Our mental health system is broken. We don’t fund it, we don’t talk about it, and we don’t treat it. The youth that recently shot and killed 17 kids as they sat in their classrooms was hearing voices telling him to commit this horrific act. These types of voices are called “Command Hallucinations”. Command hallucinations are auditory hallucinations that instruct a patient to act in specific ways; these commands can range in seriousness from innocuous to life-threatening and they are associated with Schizophrenia. Most folks who are mentally ill will never become violent. I know, I know, that’s not what “you heard”, but after 10 years of volunteer work and over 20 years of paid work in social services, I’m here to tell you, most folks who live with mental illness are victims, not perpetrators.
But then there are the few. There aren’t many, but they do exist. The difference between MAP’s statement, saying he thinks about hurting himself and others, and the awful shootings that we are witnessing far too often, is that MAP has control of his thoughts. He’s getting treatment. When a person doesn’t feel they can tell a doctor what’s going on, or they feel isolated from society due to their symptoms (talking to themselves or unseen friends), the chances of them seeking out help are slim. It takes an intervention of friends, family, or police to get them the help they need. It’s gone too far, and in order for them to come back to reality, they need outside help. Ignoring their condition will only result in yet another news story. Haven’t we seen enough? Aren’t we tired of this happening over and over and over? While there is no such thing as “perfect safety”, we must never, ever give up trying to help those who have fallen past the point of sanity.
What can you do?
- If you think something is wrong with the way you are viewing life, get help. Now. Today.
- If you know someone who you feel is struggling, talk to them about getting help. Now. Today.
- If they resist getting help, go to someone with more experience than yourself. I always called it “reporting up”. Tell your parents, your teachers, a police officer, a school counselor…talk to anyone you think may be able to convince them to get help. Now. Today.
- The next time the tax man asks you to fund mental health VOTE YES.
- If you go to a doctor who doesn’t think the mind and the body are one, reconsider your doctor.
- Read self help books, join a support group, log in to a chat group online for support.
- Educate yourself. If you alone do not have mental health concerns, you know someone who does. Family, extended family, coworkers, the lady you see walking around town without shoes in the winter…you know someone. Learn more so you can do more.
- Speak out when someone is using derogatory statements. Silence equals agreement. Say something, don’t just walk away. Educate the speaker. Mental health is taboo because we keep allowing others to pick on the ill. It’s not ok. It’s never been ok.
- Listen without judging. Especially if you have teens. Just listen. They need you to do that.
- Consider seeing an Osteopathic Doctor. They pride themselves in treating the whole body: “Body, Mind and Spirit”.
- Be gentle with yourself. We all have bad days. We all have illness.
We will all experience anxiety (before a dentist appointment, or a public speaking engagement), but when that anxiety traps you in your house and you can no longer socialize, it’s time for help.
We will all experience depression (break ups, job loss, loss of a loved one), but if your depression suddenly becomes months of sadness, you stop bathing, you stop caring, you stop feeling useful, it’s time for help.
We will all have moments of talking to ourselves, and yes, answering ourselves. But if you start to hear voices telling you to hurt yourself or others, get help now. Today. Any ER will see you.
We must turn the tide in the misconceptions around mental health. It IS a chronic illness. You might just have a cold (slight anxiety), or you might be fighting a life and death diagnosis such as cancer (Command Hallucinations to hurt yourself or others), but we all go through it. Know that.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU ARE NOT DIFFERENT. YOU DESERVE RESPECT AND TREATMENT. THE WORLD NEEDS YOU.
If you’ve ever wondered what it must be like to have Schizophrenia, or drug induced hallucinations, this music video is one of the very best I’ve ever seen. Please watch. Understand. Have empathy. Listen.