Mental illness is something many of us don’t understand; Then again, many of us do. Mental illnesses are a wide range of disorders caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, misfiring neurons, or extremely psychologically damaging events. This includes, but is not limited to, mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Something many people who suffer from mental illness ask questions that we find very familiar. “Why did this happen to me?” is a common one, but the most chilling question is. “Did I do something wrong?” Let me be clear mental illness is not a moral issue, its not a judge of who you are as a person, and it doesn’t make you a bad person just for being sick. That’s right, people or are mentally ill are sick, they have a disease. This isn’t to say their actions are 100% forgivable, and if you suffer from a mental illness not everything you do can be blamed on your illness. But something many people from the Boomer Generation, and the generations before them, even Generation Y, don’t understand is that mental illness is a real sickness, it can’t be cured like other illnesses, but it can be managed and controlled.
Dealing with mental illness is an uphill battle no matter who you are. Someone who is properly medicated all their life could have a break and end up hospitalized. This isn’t a failure. Let me emphasize that getting help for mental illness is not submitting to the idea that you have failed at life, or you are a weak person, it means quite the contrary. People who know they need help, and are willing to seek it no matter what, are very strong, both in will and character.
But what about treatment? Many people suffer from mental illness and don’t know where to start, or don’t have the recourses necessary to get treated. Groups like NAMI can offer a wide range of help for people with little to no resources by helping an individual through their wide array of support groups. They also give suggestions on what the next. Many treatments have been devised for mental illness; Ranging from talk therapy to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). The first and most important step in getting treated for mental illness is acknowledging you are sick and that you need help. Then talk therapy is probably the best next step. A licensed social worker or a psychologist will give the best results. Don’t assume medications are the first step. Many medicines that treat mental illness don’t work for everyone, for example. An antidepressant could work for someone’s mother but not for them. Medicines are not a last resort but should be an option used when talk therapy isn’t enough or isn’t working. A combination of different treatments is probably the best option for people who have already tried to get help. But before you go off researching medicines, talk to a doctor, and never self medicate.
Drugs to treat mental illness, known as psycho-pharmaceuticals, are not a cure all. Many take up to a month to build up in the body to begin to be effective. But they do help. Be ready to feel like a lab rat at times if you choose this route though. Some drugs don’t always work for some people, sometimes a drug will work but the dosage will have to be adjusted, and sometimes the side effects are unbearable. This is why therapy needs to be combined with medicine to get the best results. It helps individuals voice their concerns about medicine with someone who will listen and give suggestions about what to say and help you through those feelings. Psychologists are not therapists, they are doctors with a medical degree, and we all know how some doctors are with bedside manner.
If you think you may be suffering from a mental illness, don’t be afraid to get help. Don’t be afraid of judgment or those feelings of failure. Because being stable and healthy, even for a time, is the greatest feeling any one of us with mental illness can feel.
This article was written by Ben May, a writer for dusk magazine.