TED Conversations

Arjuna Nagendran


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What experiences have made you more comfortable with mental health disorders?

What things make you fearful of mental health disorders? And what experiences have made you more comfortable with it?

In the quest to dispell stigma, how can we help our society grow out of its fear?

  • Oct 28 2012: As a child I lived in a little town in Colombia, called Sibaté. Since there isn´t a good public health care sistem in Colombia, every case of mental illness in the main city was taken to little Sibaté, because in this town a team of nuns had founded a mental health care institution for poor people. On Weekends the nuns would let the mentally ill people that were not aggresive go out and visit the town. So we (children) became used to sit in the park on Sundays and have these weird conversations with people that had wild fantasies or could answer the craziest questions in the world. I think I learned a lot from those persons. I came to think that we all live not very far from this frontier and that it is o.k. so. And that people that have accepted their mental illness are sometimes much more easy going than people that try desperately to be seen as "normal".
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    Oct 14 2012: Realizing that we are all the same- seems so simple. My father was schizophrenic and growing up around that and seeing when he was unmedicated how people would dismiss him- how it ended up that I had to move away to be able to function myself. For a while I was in denial, but ultimately that with other struggles helped me see that everyone- even people that make me very uncomfortable- are a part of this world the same way I am, they are the same as me- no better no worse. I make eye contact, I listen, I share- with people no matter who they are or if they seem to make sense or not. Seeing yourself in them no matter how different you *think* you are- then everything is less "weird" "bad" or "wrong" and more just a different shade.
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      Oct 20 2012: Thanks for the honesty Skye. I completely agree; the idea that all of us are just as much of this world is a powerful one. Being deprived of having your existence acknowledged is probably one of the most hurtful things you can do to someone.
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    Nov 9 2012: What refreshing perspectives are represented in these posts. I couldn't agree more, that 'labels' are more destructive than beneficial. And who are the labels beneficial for? The doctors, the system of so-called mental health professionals and society to put these folks in a box. Meanwhile 'these' so-called sane folks use lobotomies, shock treatments and chemical castrations of all kinds to 'render' these misfits 'controllable'.

    Read R. D. Laing's seminal work, The politics of experience to better understand the depths of absurdity of what we call 'NORMAL' , the misplaced basis of much of our mental health.

    I would suggest that as much damage as labels do to the labeled, they do far more damage to the Doctors and society, as their ability to 'see' clearly is shrouded in a deep fog of ignorance, profits and quick fixes. How many savants have we destroyed in our system of boxes and labels? How many doctors have trouble sleeping as they remember the pain and suffering of their 'lobotomies and chemical castrations'? Who are the victims and who are the perpetrators? How far as our 'science' of psychiatry come since the days of Germany during world war 2?

    I applaud the ladies here who question the broken system of labels. Let me add my name to the list who agree with that conclusion.

    Human behavior and consciousness isn't deterministic. We all have free will, and where there is a will, there is a way.
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      • Nov 11 2012: Yes. I like that you like being you. Skip the label and just be. If nothing else it is interesting.
    • Nov 11 2012: I would like state I agree with craig that we shouldn't label people. Though that doesn't mean we should stop psychiatric treatment for people. I fully understand what it's like to have a mental and be judged for it, and understand the need for mental health though my experience. To start off use of shock-treatment has been strictly forbidden in all mental institutions second I know a lot of people with in the mental health fields none of them seen, or condoned lobotomies. If you're make claims please put in current facts about the Issue's.
    • Nov 11 2012: I do in fact have adhd, which I must take medicine for due to the fact that I'm considerable less able to function in my life. I can honestly say I don't like taking meds and prefer I didn't means to control the disorder, and I did in fact stop takes the meds for quite a some months. This unfortunately had serious negative effect's Adhd is basically Attention Deficit Disorder meaning I lack focus. This doesn't mean all adhd is the same and shouldn't be classfied as such. For instance my flaw is that I get exceedingly so one track focused that my mind goes into a trance and my brain moves on autopilot which causes me to lose the essential sense of my surroundings. Unlike my brother who can not focus on any tasks not even playing games outside. Unless it it involves watching TV or which I recently found out just Watching and listening to my ipod. Then he was able to maintain complete focus for awhile.

      I digress my flaw inevitable caused me serious short term memory loss, at such levels that could be confused with having dementia. In my last month of not taking medicine I lost my Key's, My boyfriend's Key, Spare Keys, Id, Shoes, notes, as well as forgetting to complete certain essential tasks.
      Which oddly combined with special K cereal, caused me to lose a good appetite and I ended up starving myself of essential Nutrients. Now my boyfriend has banned me Special K and all other diet food seeing how it turned me into a zombie. Again I disgress. Point being is that I have flaws on which I need to take medicine for.
    • Nov 11 2012: Though I don't believe people make accurate claims when they say they have adhd. One because everyone tends to daydream or lose focus once in awhile, this isn't adhd nor should people claim it as such. If that were the case anyone who has ever being caught up reading a book they found interesting has ADHD. adhd Implies that constantly daydreaming or constant racing mind causes a person to detrimentally forget things because they lack the ability to come out of that trace.

      The large claims of ADHD has positives and negatives one people are more excepting of the disability. Second is that people with ADHD are believed to be incapable of simple task of need of constant help. I often deal with such belief's and prove to people that I am in fact capable. People worry that I'll will burn down my appartment because I will forget to turn off the gas or that I would die in a car accident because I would be lose train of thought.
      I would comment more on this But really tired.
  • Nov 8 2012: I grew up about half a mile from a large mental hospital. Seeing patients was part of everyday community life. It never dawned on me that I would deal with mental health personally. I came by bipolar honestly, apparently and as I found out after I was diagnosed, it runs in the family. I have determined to roll with it. The creative energy of hypomania lets me be outgoing and social, the introspection of depression has given me a philosophical space. When the high or the low get too intense, I turn to my counsellor and my psychiatrist for a combination of talk and drugs to help moderate life. Personally, I have committed to making my condition as "normal" as I can. I would not be hesitant to acknowledge having diabetes or heart problems so I simply state that I am bipolar. Let people think what they will, if enough of us say it out loud maybe it will no longer carry the stigma. I am optimistic and there is nothing to lose. Truth is I am bipolar and inevitably it will out.
  • Oct 28 2012: The experience that made me become most comfortable with my own and other's people mental illness was one conversation I had with a neighbor, a veteran, that in a moment of clarity he said: "People say I am crazy and treat me like I do not know what I am doing. No one knows how hard and so much smarter I have to be in order to live independently with my condition". It was like finding a mirror. So liberating.

    Then we joked about how the majority of people and care providers that give us treatment have NO IDEA how is to be in our heads. They cannot imagine the same way I cannot imagine thinking "normal" without the days floating around me. For me that conversation gave me more acceptance and made me conscious that us, those who live with mental conditions, have some sort of a special culture unfamiliar to many. That gave me comfort.
    • Nov 8 2012: I love your experience and wonderful conclusions. You are so right about a different way of thinking. I flow in and out and occasionally visit that sort of normal space. Reading your comment made me feel more okay about the difference. Thank you.
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    Oct 14 2012: I've been working in Mental Health for several years as a counsellor.

    I got into that because I have a mental health problem myself (moderate to severe depression), which I figured would give me a good understanding of others with similar problems. It has made me very comfortable in the presence of those who also suffer - and as a kind of symbiosis of understanding, has made me more comfortable with myself in the process.

    There is much truth in Jung's statement that: "...the wounded healer refers psychologically to the capacity to be at home in the darkness of suffering and there to find germs of light and recovery..."

    I realise that in admitting this in open forum, I may be leaving myself open to those who stigmatise. But then stigma is profoundly weakened in the face of openness.
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      Oct 14 2012: i think i have a slight stigma .how can i get rid of it ?
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        Oct 14 2012: Do not hurry to grow to know and then to blow , just be as you are becouse knowledge and grow does not mean you are in the peak of humanity. Maybe later you will realise how beautiful childhood was or not, depends on how happy you was that time you were playing or learning so do not worry ... be happy. If you wanna be with us be but think that if feel unconfortable maybe you should come back later or be with those you feel well. I have made this application http://www.dacicop.ro/ for this purpose. You can help, this is why China has 50000 people (the great Internet firewall) to protect people of harm from "outside" and is good and bad becouse protection should be graduated and let down as you grow up :) .
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        Oct 14 2012: Hi Xin - When do you notice the stigma? Is it exclusively related to people with mental disorders?
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          Oct 14 2012: sometimes i put my attention to one question .i think and think ,if i can not get through .i may have a head.and feel wrong with myself .
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    Oct 11 2012: I am grateful that there is no longer such a stigma that people are afraid to seek the help that could improve not only their quality of life but that of their families and loved ones.

    I think what has made mental health challenges more accepted is that so many more people openly share that aspect of themselves alongside everything else they are. When I was young, I never remember anyone talking about being bipolar, and now I know lots of people who are.

    Many people also realize at this point that some of the most creative people who have ever lived have had mood disorders.

    There is a wonderful book on creativity and mood disorders by Kay Jamison of Johns Hopkins Medical school, I think, called Touched with Fire.
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      Oct 11 2012: Re suffferers coming forward.. For what are likely multiple reasons (including stigma) 90% of those with schizophrenia are untreated in developing countries.

      Globally, we have a lot of work to do.
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        Oct 11 2012: I don't hear many people talk about being schizophrenic. It is mood disorders people seem to share a lot.
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          Oct 11 2012: Schizophrenia is common, affecting ~ 0.5-1% of us, depending on your exact qualifying criteria, but that's about 1 in 100, which I think is a lot!

          Even with respect to mood disorders, depression for example. the figure is still high - 50% do not get treatment globally - and one of the 3 big factors this is put down to is social stigma. (The others being lack of resources and lack of trained providers).
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        Oct 11 2012: I have a simple question .... can you say if I am schizophrenic or not if you talk to me like now and would you belive in your feelings or an entire school system represented by a psychiatric doctor. Will you be blind and obey to a doctor paper and sign or you will want to know and maybe help one such person.
        I can give you also a foto copy of my diagnostic and I will ask then? Do you belive in what you see or your self perception and feelings about a person. Is a choice to belive in yourself and to belive in an entire medical school. Chose one, I am already "out" - "of my mind" :) but more can come if you do not take care of people around you and ask yourself, who will lose and who will have a lot of income in the next years for the simple matter that we do not love each other and take care of us.
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          Oct 11 2012: Schooling in any subject can only provide a framework, useful for learning from the collective past.

          Experience is the only thing that will fill in the gaps for the individual, to allow them to handle the future in a way as tailored to an individual as possible.
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        Oct 14 2012: So from your point of view individuals have "gaps" and you play a role in a scene and make this kind of scenes untill you do not see the "gap" to the the individual and if do not love that individual you give him more of your "gaps" as to say becouse I am sure love has nothing related to knowledge and only freedom of love and without borders like your "gaps" (or haps or caps - how I should say ?) can make happy anyone on Earth and also your ancestors and future family (or generations ... i should say :) ) . Think about .....
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          Oct 14 2012: Perhaps I wasn't expressing myself well, I think you've misunderstood.

          When I refer to "gaps" I refer to the disparity between all collated knowledge from books, teaching and the unique case of each individual. To help someone holistically, the medical professional needs to combine their theoretical knowledge with experience from multiple previous patients, and then tailor treatment to the unique needs of the individual. Medication is not the only treatment, in psychiatry in particular a lot of emphasis is placed on the biopsychosocial model - and even this can be tailored to what is the particular way, at that particular time that will help that particular person best.
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        Oct 14 2012: I can make you a small poem for the "doctors" with bad intention.

        Can a hap with a cap ,
        cover an imaginary gap?,
        If you hurt and you are so alone
        And can not throw into anyone the bone?
        Maybe you should have someone
        And show how is to love and done.
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    Gail . 50+

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    Oct 11 2012: .
    Brother and sister with schizophrenia
    Another brother and sister with bipolar
    Mother life-long clinically depressed
    Husband just diagnosed with dementia

    I don't know how comfortable I am with all of that (given the impositions in my life) but I certainly am used to it and find no shame in it.

    How to help erase the stigma: I'm not sure. I would prefer that we correct the deficiencies in our cultural norms so that at least some (if not most) of these diseases can be precluded. In the meantime, perhaps movies that present the mentally ill in a more favorable light, or characters seeking professional help and transforming their lives through acceptance of the illnesses. We hear about the most dangerous, but not about the non-dangerous.
  • Nov 9 2012: We assign such special status to the brain among all the organs. People who would not think twice about being diagnosed with a disorder of the lungs, kidneys or heart cannot accept the fact that the brain can be "broken" too. Likewise, there is medication which can help treat those maladies of the brain just as there is medication for thousands of other physical issues. When we can see that the brain is an organ like any other and, as such, subject to physical imperfections, we can start to de-stigmatize mental illness.
  • Nov 8 2012: I think unless you have been directly affected by mental illness in your life it is extremely difficult to even begin to understand a person, or feel comfortable with their mental health disorders. For me I have experienced mental illness (schizophrenia) in my family and have seen first hand how this illness can appear to drastically change a person. Also my partner of 4 years suffered with bi-polar and again the changes in his personality were dramatic. When he was on a high he could be the happiest person in the world but on a low it was virtually impossible to get two words from him, which initally is hard to reconcile. I think the thing you come to realise is the mental illness is just that an illness. In the end the person you know (or are if you suffer yourself) still exists their true nature remains unchanged even if to others or even yourself sometimes its difficult to see. Accepting this for me makes it much easier to understand and be comfortable around mental illness. Just as you would not blame a cancer sufferer or amputee for a bad day, its the same with mental illness.
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    Sarah M

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    Oct 30 2012: I worked in Mental Health for 5 years. I absolutely loved it and I loved the people I worked with. My clients lived in Licensed Boarding Houses and I provided recreation and leisure to my clients and took them out into the community.

    Only once in 5 years was one of my clients so unwell that I felt a threat. I can honestly say I got so much more out of my clients than they ever got out of me but I am sure they think that they were getting more out of me. They enriched my life with their Resilience, Humor, Stories and Outright Craziness. I have heard it all and will never be shocked again at anything anyone tells me as I have heard the most amazing, outrageous stuff.

    I use to get up for work every morning happy to be going to work and I still think of my clients often with a smile on my face.

    Yes Psychosis is scary I wasn’t dealing with people with Psychosis I was working with people out of hospital who were of varying ability who were trying to be part of society again.
    Always remember that perfectly sane people can commit the worst of crimes.
    Mental illness does not mean danger most of the time and sadly most of them are more intent on hurting themselves rather than others when unwell.
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    Oct 26 2012: I think that the media is to blame for the mass stereotyping of mental disorders and have made people very scared of these people. Thanks to shows like criminal minds, CSI, and other media mental illness is portrayed as crazy people who could snap in a minute and go on a mass killing spree. I am very comfortable with mental illness because I am a 4th year psychology student in university, so I learn about these disorders and am very aware of the horrible bias these people face everyday.
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    Oct 23 2012: My first wife was the victim of abuse. She had all the earmarks of what religion would have called demonic possession. A religious friend walked me through what could've been a nightmare until her death from an accident. This friend even foresaw her death and prepared me for it in advance.

    I recognized that my first wife had multiple personalities. I also recognized that the abuse she endured was probably the cause. For this, I gained much from the experience. My love for her overcame any fear that I might have felt.

    I had another friend that was hyperactive and had a lot of built in anger. He had been put on Ritalin as a child and often given additional doses to shut him down. He felt that his childhood had been robbed from him. He would talk tough and even violent that no one had better mess with him. I discovered that his demeanor was a survival ploy. I told him that his demeanor was sabotaging his ability to make friends that could help him out in life. Gradually he began to listen and realized that I was on his side. In time, he softened up, which helped him land a job and things improved for him.

    I have another friend who is also hyper. When I first met him, he couldn't stay focused on anything. He was considered a misfit by the community. My talking to him helped me to understand him, and as this went on, I was able to mentor him to a more responsible person. He just needed someone who was willing to listen (and not charge him $$$ for it).

    I read a book by Dr. Arthur Janov called "The New Primal Scream" that talked of how early childhood trauma can lead to mental disorders. Once the trauma is exposed, the disorders generally fade afterwards. For those who are not born with brain disorders, there is hope if your are willing to listen. I've learned not to judge one's behavior, but to listen for clues that underlie the behavior. I find that they recognize when someone shows that they care, and it brings about a change in their demeanor.
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    Oct 20 2012: I am compelled to add one more comment: Until relatively recently, homosexuality was officially considered a mental health disorder by our medical, governmental, and social establishments. Nothing could be further from the truth, as is now officially accepted by these same establishments that once punished and vainly tried to treat these "conditions". Fundamentalists notwithstanding.

    Seeing this happen within our own lifetimes makes me suspect that perhaps other "mental health disorders", maybe even many of them, are not actually disorders.

    I also have to add that we live in an insane society racking up huge debt and perched on the edge of nuclear destruction for 50+ years. It is hypocritical for society to call a person crazy because they have a mental health disorder, when our society itself is insane. It can't make a valid judgement about sanity, as the homosexuality issue has proven.
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    Oct 20 2012: It is a sad fact that self actualization and spiritual evolution grace many people only after experiencing some level of horrific experience - often involving life threatening issues. Steve Jobs commented on this in his awesome Stanford address, and there are some studies that suggest that accident victims may experience more life satisfaction than lottery winners. I almost feel like calling them accident winners and lottery victims though, given the five year outcome in terms of self actualization.

    When bad things happen to us, we have a tendency in our society to overly medicate ourselves and protect ourselves to the extent that, sure maybe the drugs allow us to continue moving through life being a good citizen, but I worry we will not gain the life lessons we need to learn from our own lives. How many of us reading this right now are on anti-depressant or mood altering drugs? This can result in mental illness. Some call this "soul loss", and they attempt to cure this condition through a soul recovery. That is an approach I am very interested in personally.

    Our pharmaceutical industry is paying our elected officials to ensure that they continue making huge profits by selling more and more drugs, which I think further exacerbates the issue and gives us a "prescription" for disaster.

    In some cultures, notably many indigenous cultures, the crazy people are the shamans giving the culture wisdom and healing. Interestingly, finding yourself called to being a Shaman is somewhat of a curse as well.

    There is an interesting movement called the "Mad Pride" movement - about legitimizing the spiritual process some of us feel called to go through as our life's learning process.

    With all of that said, I totally support using any healing modality possible to cure mental health disorders. My main point, is that it is the very full experience of life itself which has made me more comfortable with mental health disorders.
    • Nov 5 2012: Life is for living. Life is an adventure. If it were easy they would never call it adventure. I am, in my own belief, right where my deity wants me to be, because as I grow and develop through it I will be able to minister to and console and edify those who see me or may be going through a hard time. To build up another is a calling from God. To strengthen the weak and help the downtrodden...but how do we empathize with such if we never experience it for ourselves? I'm beginning to think of this life on earth as a boot-camp for a later existance.
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    Oct 20 2012: As a person with psych labels (note plural) I would like to add the following. Sometimes having an episode can make life really strange. Sometimes I have a lot of energy and other times I don't. Sometimes I seem to be able to engage with other people really well and other times I don't. I agree with Ruby Wax about the stigma. My life opportunities have been drastically affected - you may or may not see it as a blessing that I cannot get credit or life insurance. Sometimes I really wonder who is insane. People literally stop seeing you as having any potential once you have a pscyh. label. I also viewed Vikram Patel's talk and added my comments about the role of talking therapies like counselling. I do have neurological issues as well and there is a huge crossover in the two. The meds are not benign. Lithium is nasty, risperidone makes you produce breast milk now seems long-term use of some antidepressants may lead to early dementia. So I would advocate for a combination of talking therapy with meds to a minimum for severe episodes and a bit more love, support and understanding. Am a person not an animal. Used to be places for people like me in communities, creative people with ideas but less and less so in a world where you need cold hard cash to pay the bills. So grateful for community based care in the U.K,. and closure of the asylums. Think people are scared possibly because they may think 'well that's what I am like some of the time, am I insane ?' then others may project their own stuff (note tech term from psychology) on to someone else. Nurture, support and tolerance not blame, shame and isolate. Also note the lack of family support and friends for people on psych wards, gentleness helps when someone is having a psychotic break, ever consider a patient might actually be very frightened hence fight or flight. BTW Gullivers Travels written after a psych episode I understand and so many creative people. It's all about different ways of seeing.
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      Oct 20 2012: /
      Who couldn't use a little holistic therapeutic haven? Label me crazy but I like that idea. Do your best to shrug off the shame game. Everyone can afford more tolerance, support, gentleness. Some of us have more scary strangeness happening than others. Some of us engage with others better than others. When I'm not feeling able to engage with others I make sure I am my own best friend. I know what shame is and I know what it feels like and I don't wish that on you or anybody.

      Thank you for writing, Elizabeth. I like how real you are here and the way you talk about how things are for you. I'm glad you have that community based care and that its working out for you.
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        Oct 21 2012: Problem is Mark it's not. Psych label 16 years old. Serious consequences. Less than a person legally, not allowed to do jury service and any court case dismissed by Crown Prosecution Service as 'unreliable witness'. Discrimination in allocation of welfare benefits. Inadequate health care leading to permanent physical disability, spinal op should have happened max 6 months after notification of same. Second disc collapsed in 15 month wait. Serious permanent neurological damage plus meds possibly damaged renal system and now body struggling to cope with pain meds let alone psych meds. Son now 16 my main carer for years and now potential eating disorder. Not having 'career' in mental illess for him. He is brilliant at Maths and wants to be engineer or architect not my carer. Not 'the cervical myelopathy' in bed 2 or 'higher functioning manic depressive' in the community. Graduate Goldsmiths College London 2002 Creative Writing Course then episode stopped progression. Graduate Foundation Degree Integrative Counselling. Enrolled University of Greenwich, spinal surgery potentially ending final B.A. My life ruined, no access to credit or life insurance. Liability for employment but luckily unable to fill shelves. Not giving in to psychosis as escape, psych wards a living hell. Just like Ruby Wax and Stephen Fry but 'non-celebrity'. As a middle aged woman become invisible, humour an ego-defense for truly painful reality.
        • Nov 5 2012: Well Elizabeth, i too am aware of the way people treat you differently when you are a little different mentally. depression has been a lifelong battle for me although it wasn't diagnoed until after military service. My mom battled it all her life. Both of my brothers are recovering alcoholics as was my Grandfather. My dad had PTSD from Korea and taught it well to us kids. But still, through all of my weirdness and depression and creative bursts and MS, I have discovered a couple of things. It has made me extremely adaptable. Darwin didn't say it was the fittest that would survive, it would be the most ADAPTABLE that would survive. Those of us with "The Label" need not totally follow societal norms and we will be better able to adapt AND think outside the box we have been so conveniently excluded from. I don't miss their version of reality a bit even though I have to play the game daily. yes, the exclusions are painful but they allow for self growth within ourselves. That which does not kill me makes me stronger.
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    Oct 13 2012: Hello Arjuna,
    I have been comfortable with many different "types" of people my whole life, because I am fascinated with human behaviors...mine included! I love observing and exploring human behaviors from many different angles.

    Years ago, I had the opportunity to coach kids who were competing in the special olympics. The kids I was teaching to ski, were labeled mentally disabled.....mostly Down's syndrome. They were all some of the most enthusiastic, energetic, joyfull and unconditionally loving people I have ever encountered! That was my first interaction with a large group of people labeled with mental disorders.

    Their demeanor was so delightful and encouraging to all of us, that we (the coaches) often wondered and asked each other....who is teaching who here! The experience really opened my eyes and heart to see something very different than a "disorder". If we could all have the enthusiasm and love those kids shared with us, what a wonderful world it would be:>)
    • Oct 13 2012: What a wonderful experience it is, right? :-)
      Experiences surely teach us a lot more than we think...
      I wish I could have that kind of meaningful experiences in the near future..

      One experience of helping a person with mental disordor was actually quite demanding and even stressful...

      But that was a special case with kinda long story ...

      Anyway, those kids would also be happy when they realize(I believe they probably will) there was a person who found hope in their hearts. :)
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        Oct 14 2012: Yes indeed Elizabeth....a wonderful experience.

        You are in luck my dear one!
        The 2013 winter special olympics are going to be in So. Korea!!!

        Here is a link with information about volunteering. They need all kinds of people with various skills and talents, so DO IT Elizabeth if you can:>)

        • Oct 14 2012: Wow....I didn't know these opportunities...!
          Thank you so much, Colleen :D
          I'll first find out what I can do through skimming through those websites.
          If there's any question on that matter, I'll send you an email via 'TED contact' to see if I can get your advice...! :)
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        Nov 8 2012: Any news Elizabeth?

        As I recall, one of the sites had a link to connect you with information regarding opportunities in your area. That is what I did with special olympics. I was involved in the state pre-qualifiers. The state special olympics that year happened to be at the ski area close to my home (Northeast USA) while the finals were out west. I really hope you can participate....it's a wonderful, very fullfilling experience:>)

        You are welcome to contact me any time....I enjoy our conversations Elizabeth:>)
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      Nov 6 2012: Hi Colleen,
      Long time no see. I hope you're keeping well.
      Being very familiar with Down's Syndrome it makes me really uncomfortable, not to say angry at the least, when I see it related to words such as mentally disabled or mental disorder. I strongly believe there is a huge difference between people suffering from mental health issues and people with down's syndrome. Let's encourage people to stop using such labels and yes, let's all allow ourselves to appreciate the authentic enthusiam and love they so generously always share.
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        Nov 8 2012: Hello Helena....always nice to connect with you:>) I am well...hope the same for you?

        It is not comfortable for me either Helena, when people are labeled. I was labeled for awhile after my near fatal head injury. Medical professionals told me and my family that I would never be "normal" again. As I began to recover, I was curious to find out what that meant for me the rest of my life, so I did a lot of research and study regarding mental disabilities.

        What I discovered, is that we all experience many so called "disabilities" at some level, sometimes in our lives. We all experience fear at some point, on many different levels, we are all paranoid on some level, at some time in our lives, we have "up" and "down" times, so we may all experience manic/depressive behaviors on some level, we are all often obsessed with something or someone...who knows when this becomes obsessive compulsive.....etc. etc......

        Thankfully, all the cognitive testing I experienced as the brain healed showed no permanent cognitive challenges. As a matter of fact, tests indicated that I was high average/superior AFTER the brain was damaged.....don't know how THAT happened!!!

        My experience with the head injury and subsequent exploration, research, and study, gave me even more information that tells me that labeling anyone is not always a good idea. I think/feel that to evaluate someone and possibly labeling for the purpose of helping to support someone with their function or dysfunction may be an acceptable use of labels. Other than that, I see us all more the same than different:>)
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          Nov 9 2012: HI Colleen,
          I'm very well, thank you.
          I simply have issues with the connotations involved in the word disabled and some of the meanings the dictionary offers, that's all. I personally think labels do a lot of damage. On the other hand, I believe the general sense of "fear" in relation to this topic, comes from uncertainty. If we were informed about the different conditions people may experience, the fear would be less and therefore people would have the chance to interact with one another more comfortably.
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        Nov 9 2012: Hi again Helena,
        I understand, feel the same way, and I also agree with you that fear is a major factor with this topic. Information certainly helps us understand various conditions of the human body/mind and if we could realize more about different levels and degrees of various conditions, it might be helpful to our understanding. As has been mentioned already on this thread, many people who supposedly have mental disorders have a great deal to offer us if we can really be with them without fear.
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      Nov 7 2012: Testing replies...
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    • Nov 11 2012: You are an inspiration. I have a mental illness and over and above that, I am dealing with a step daughter who is an alcoholic and clinically depressed. I am going to share your thoughts with her. She is so hard to reach and feels like everyone is trying to tell her what to do. Your approach seems to value doing rather than being told. I love it. Thank you.
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    Nov 9 2012: That's a great question!

    I know a kid with mild epilepsy who's father was able to 'cure' him through the removal of heavy metals. So I looked into heavy metals and their impact on our bodies, and that it can account for both mental and physical disorders, which then made me think that everyone we meet including people we may have known for all our lives may not actually have much choice on who they are or how they think, and therefore not really 'themselves'.

    So I figure everyone is normal and doing the best they can with what they have.
  • Nov 7 2012: Perhaps, my experiences as a student nurse before have made me see people with mental disorders in a different light. As part of the learning process, we were tasked to stay in a mental facility and take care of patients with various conditions - schizophrenia, dementia, bipolar disorders,etc. I used to have this fear of being harmed by these patients, having the stereotype that they are rather banes of the society. But how was I able to outgrow that fear?Being knowledgeable of what these people are going through and above all, empathy. It is believed that once we put ourselves on the shoes of others, taking it in the figurative sense of course, we learn to understand them.When we leave our own boxes and see things in a different perspective, that's how we begin to see the bigger picture.

    Also, we need to put into consideration that the etiology of some of these disorders is unknown. These people or most of them do not even understand what they're going through.
  • Nov 5 2012: I haven't seen anyone note the differences between mental disorders based in brain anatomy/physiology and problems based on poor coping skills, or on attitudes/beliefs/habits that lead people into behaviors that do themselves or those around them harm, or to growing up in a dysfunctional environment or family, or suffering from a physical illness that leads to behavioral signs & symptoms (some severe vitamin deficiencies, infections, endocrine disorders for example).

    Consider people with clinical depression - some can get a lot of relief from cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medication, others who have different brain chemistry may react badly to meds and/or get no relief from therapy strategies.

    People with severe brain disorders like schizophrenia, rapid cycling bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorders or other severe brain disorders can be very difficult to interact with - most folks just don't understand how to interact with someone who perceives reality very differently than they do themselves, or who isn't perceiving external reality at all well when they're in the grip of overwhelming and often terrifying hallucinations. It's awfully hard for many people to "see the other person's point of view" even when that other person is within the same range of common or normal brain function and behavior.

    Until the 20th century hardly anyone thought that hallucinations, obsessive/compulsive behavior and other far-out-of-the-usual-range behaviors were rooted in physical diseases and such behaviors were often assigned supernatural causes - and treatments. Less severe behavior issues were often simply dismissed as "That's the way s/he is." It wasn't until medications that could influence psychotic behaviors were discovered and brought into use that anyone thought that severe mental disorders could be brought under control at all - sufferers here in the US were institutionalized and expected to remain in that environment for life.
  • Nov 4 2012: my experience taught me not to get connected to any thing eternally in physical sense, besides
    nothing happens as we plan, but it gets connected the way we want.
    in fact the commands are followed by us, the results too are decided by source of invisible intelligence.
    it is just like ice cube wants to know what is water?
  • Steve C

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    Oct 26 2012: I have gotten much from reading Ty C. Colbert, Edward Barrie, James W. Prescott, Thomas Szasz, and Dr. Patch Adams.
    I have also gotten much from talking to others with various "afflictions," and seeing their lives and problems, and how they continue to strive.
    "how can we help our society grow out of its fear?" By connecting; not merely connecting via web links & tweets, but by consideration & trust. By choosing to spend time and energy with them. And by being truthful & accountable; give and take.
  • Oct 22 2012: I was labeled and thrust into the world of mental disorders as a young child. I became more comfortable with mental health disorders, when I discovered people who had them were kinder, and far less judgmental of me. I had myself hospitalized in a place with colorful characters, just to escape bullying.

    I never liked the term "mental Illness," and even now it is hard to define myself in this way. I spent my late childhood in a residential school, where I was told that kids who wind up there are the hopeless cases. They are the ones society including their own families "throw away." I know that I was loved by my parents, so I decided that this particular mental health professional, a self-declared picture of mental health was in fact suffering from a frighteningly deranged God complex.

    It is hard to be comfortable with such a label. My own family thinks my depression is just laziness, though it is harder for them to ignore the recurrent panic attacks. Panic attacks have physical manifestations, so I suppose on some level, panic disorder seems less like a mental illness.

    As a child, I had a psychologist who told my Mother not to let anyone label me. Oops, too late. Every therapist, psychologist, and psychiatrist created more and more labels.

    I agree with Ruby Wax that stigma has to go. I believe one in four people are diagnosed with a mental disorder, but I see shades of all kinds of illness in "normal" people.

    I agree that my anxiety has nowhere to go in this toxic society we have created for ourselves. Long term exposure to poison makes people sick. Those with greater sensitivity to such poison will get more sick.

    On the brighter side, I no longer feel shamed by others who look down on me for my illness. Especially regarding certain members of my family, I figure if they don't get it by now, any more explanation (excuses according to them) is wasted on them.

    If someone is afraid of me due to their own ignorance, I'm happy to chase them away.
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    Oct 21 2012: was give the thought, let go, let life, and learn, from all you live through, Its the process of coming into your own, clearing all you have learned out, and practicing the art of being, it is then consciously assimilating, as to what you see as best for you. . to not live in another's shadow . . . too oft, people are panic struck. . it all begins with losing our power, having our feelings dismissed, oft send to nurseries where we have to fend for ourselves, from way to early in life. told what and when and how to do. . it all about the narrowing our views, which in truth, are exploding with insights. school windows were shut down. . to prevent daydreaming. oops, that when the iniverse is downloading massive loads of insights to you, or just delightful scenarios, to heal your mind from having been so overtaxed that it simply tuned out from within, for a speedy recovery.by gazing at the sky, not denied. . . the shadows of our never being let live in our own light, snaps . . and every time life gets too much. . .we unravel much due to lack o sleep tearing through the nights as we did when waking up to the world that had not been kind to you, up to that point
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      Oct 21 2012: Deep insights coming out.
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        Oct 21 2012: thank you. I've looked at the big picture first since I began framing in jigsaw puzzles at 7 on being a 900 piece puzzle and presently I am awed by all that is coming to light with the TedTalks.
        I always begin with no matter you views or discipline in life, we are all speaking of one and the same universe of which we are all give our own views and perceptions, each of which broadens our outlook on life through retreating from fields of conflict and peacing it all together . . so far, its working like a charm, on all which has come to light . . about bringing the light years down to earth. which is our clearing the way for youth, whose health and well being are severely taxed when we force our views on them through schooling, instead of letting them guide us with their insightfulness and fresh ideas.
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    Oct 21 2012: From the moment of conception, every cell of our being takes form out of the store of memories, imbedded on our being upon which our parental linage back to the dawn of time the our spirits began to fabricate the dream. . wonder, if that was the fitting word. the mind let dance on wings of wonder. singing itself in matter, igniting the galactic lights at the convergencess of consciousness. . oozing all from all and popping up in a 50 50 recombine. . diversifying with every generation. . youth, picking up on where we have evolved to. and with fresh minds, untrained eye, as so many have spoke of in the tedTalks . In all o nature, and even life, we clear way for the new growth. .
    Many hands make light work . . or is it work light. . which ever. . through advancess and automation, take the work out of living .most are keeping busy because they cannot stomach the thoughts they have. as life is a constant process of assimmilation, with the universe constanty feeding you the easy outs, sadly, they are all relegated to the fairy land department. .
    I had the following down when I started over. the whole of creation is a grow from within. Humanity so taxes its body mind and spirit, that each day, it needs take time out to . . defrag or defrazzle. . in a massive nightly blitch, without a beep out of you, thank you kindly. Catch your second wind and soar like a wondering albatross o'er all, that's left others stumped, for life. ALL humanity is about, are the thoughts which came to mind in the sweet by and bye . . giving way to the present, now concreted into matter, by those who enshine the laws and fence in all the years of our youth . .
    go take a walk and like on the forest floor for a spell. . . make music, and soothe the busyness of your mind. . . play shaman, break the spell with music. and what the cosmic B-Line we all have , like wise, change its tune
    • Nov 5 2012: Very well said! To quiet the busyness of the mind....I find that solitude within nature helps me amazingly. I am a Christian but not like most other Christians out there. My church is nature and God's creation surrounding me, where I become one with the Creation, where I come home to the reality of life. Not the realities imposed on us through societal pressures but the reality of being a singular, unique work of creation meant to be a BEING not a DOING. I AM what and who I am. My personality traits and oddities are my own and they make me ME. Am I insane. No, maybe. Do I battle severe depression? Yes but I ALWAYS win. never go into a fight allowing for the possibility of defeat, you will lose. Go into a fight KNOWING and SEEING yourself as the victor before the first blow is ever struck...you WILL WIN. EVERY TIME! Mental illness, maybe. mental strength and endurance, unquestionably. let me be me rather than NORMAL any day. I am a fringe rider. I ride the fringes of normality so the loonies that know me and like me can feel a little more normal about themselves and all the straight arrows like me because they feel like they are associated with a wild child. Yahoo, what a ride! Let's rock-n-roll in our peculiarities!
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    Oct 20 2012: /
    Experiences. Thoughts. Insights?
    Every time I see (really notice) a failing of mine in any respect, I become more ready to accept something like mental illness as part of the way someone operates because of bad chemicals or bad wiring or both. Many many people (myself included) are buried under baggage of some kind or another and "mental failings" is a kind of baggage. The strange thing about persons is that we can drive ourselves insane. How is that even possible? We are wired to have the ability to synthesize happiness. We can actually envision grand and glorious things and then later ignore this wonderful ability as if it didn't matter.

    Our pets are happier than we are.
    I think the problem of not being comfortable with mental illness stems from the very boundary of our self. Play a game of same and different. Are you a loser? Are you a winner? How much like a loser are you? How much like a winner? Is being happy more about making the right choices or about accepting as OK the choices you've already made?

    We don't have a clue about how to be excellent persons. But our boundary of self can expand to include everything and everyone. If I change the fear from "will I fail by being like" THAT CRAZY PERSON (obviously a loser) to "will I fail to be a hero to this part of me that obviously needs my help" I win.

    Jill Bolte Taylor (wonderful TED talk) had her stroke of insight. I once fainted and awoke in such a state (giddily happy to be alive) that I thought about this frail crazy temporary thing we call life in a different way from then on.

    Life is great. We should be ready to do more for our mental well-being.

    That "crazy person" IS me. That psychotic is me. That depressed person is me. That paranoid person is me. Will I fail to be a loving hero when I'm needed?
    • Nov 5 2012: Well stated Mark. We ARE all of us. Will I choose to be happy or sad? Will I choose to walk in love or hate. Am I too good to help that odd person or might I be missing the chance of a lifetime to know a unique and interesting person that adds value to my life> May I be allowed to add value to theirs? It is an honor to give up 0oneself for the enrichment of another. Those are life's true values.
  • Oct 20 2012: My mother suffered from mental illness for most of her life, depression, drug abuse, borderline personality disorder until she finally succeeded in ending her own life when I was 17 years of age. This experience has given me a profound sense of empathy for anybody that has or is currently experiencing mental illness.

    I am now a doctor and I am currently doing a rotation in psychiatry based in the same inpatient unit that I visited my mother in on more than one occasion. I know that because of my past experience I am much more empathetic towards the patients I care for and perhaps I have a little more insight into the impact that mental illness has not just on the patients but also on their families.

    What has made me more fearful of mental health disorders? Since becoming a doctor I understand the reluctance of other health professionals in coming forwards and seeking treatment due to the stigma associated with mental illness. It's not like a broken leg, or even heart failure, these illnesses generally garner sympathy. Mental illness often does not.

    One of the most frustrating parts of mental illness for me relates to my work. Psychiatric notes are kept separate from medical notes (for which there are some good reasons to do this), but at the very least, when I am treating a patient, I would like to know what illnesses afflict their mind as well as their body because the two are not mutually exclusive, they are deeply intertwined and you can not treat one without treating the other. This separation is mostly due to the abhorrent stigma associated with mental illness.

    How can we help society grow out of its fear? A start would be for those who have experienced mental illness, either in themselves or others close to them, to begin conversations, to discuss the stigma they have felt or seen and to be willing to share. I feel this is even more important for people in what are considered "professional" jobs. Sharing is the start...
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      Oct 20 2012: Thanks for sharing Katie. I'm also on my psychiatry rotation at the moment - your points about the seperation of medical and psychiatic notes is something that frustrates me too. It's a bit of a paradox really, because the "good" reasons are to stop any prejudice against the individual, the converse being that you almost perpetuate a distinction by submitting to its effect.

      Sharing is indeed the start - the work done by Ruby is a great example :)
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      Oct 21 2012: Know that you and those like you are very much appreciated.

      Over the years I often visited close family staying in psychiatric hospitals. The few that really care they really do the job and make a difference. I'm gratful to them.
    • Nov 5 2012: Katie. or Dr. Katie, sorry, you earned your title, I, as a person dealing with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorders chronic Reactive Arthritis and recently a diagnosis of Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis, that has really hit the depression and everything else hard...anyway as one of thi=ose folks I say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. Yes I battle mental illness, as does most of my family, but we can and are still able to live fulfilling productive lives. We just have to bend or break a few of the rules to pull it off. Being WEIRD is just fine with me. Neuropsych eveals put my intelligence at to top enf of the bell curve, way out there in the upper 98-99%. That scares the shit out of me. I always knew I was reasonably bright but nw it explains my wierdness and difficulty relating to others. It explains why I devoured books on ALL topics as a kid. I was always very good at math though I hated it, but I did find it useful for my scientific education and Physics. But all my life , I've been wandering around wondering why I seemed so different and strange to everyone around me. I'm a proud nerd, that thinks differently than other folks. I'm wired differently. And that's JUST fine with me. keeps everyone else on their toes because they never know what the wild eyed bearded weirdo is gonna say or write next. Pair-o-dice!
  • Oct 14 2012: How to support society in dispelling the stigma of mental health disorders:

    Open and honest communication and increased education is critical. We need to discuss mental health just as we would discuss diabetes or cholesterol. We, as a society need to understand that mental health is simply another facet of our physcial health and there is no shame in living with a mental health condition. We must strive to find more effective and compassionate ways to care for ourselves and eachother. Also, the more people step forward, (just as Ruby Wax adn Elyn Saks have courageously done here at TED), the more people will see that the faces of mental health (wellness and "illness") may look very much like our own. We also need to eliminate the myth that one person is "healthy" while another person is "sick." Throughout our lives, we are likely to experience various blends of everchanging levels of wellness, recovery, resilience, robust thriving, remission and pathology.
    One could argue that we all live in a state between "sanity" and "insanity" as we struggle to fully understand ourselves and truly comprehend the world around us and our place in it.
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      Oct 14 2012: I am until someone make harm to me and all the bad thoughts (and not only) make me suffer. Kidding ..... I was child also you were child also and we were happy until ..... Think about ....
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      Oct 14 2012: If you think that people that define mental health are the very healthy .... you are wrong but they have more tools to oppress you or me and I do not say that problems do not exists but they are aggravated or hidden until they blow up (see what happened in America in highschools when they give them pills and after they are totaly lost). Is like they hide the bad and let it out when they need to have more financing and those kids maybe have only small problems at first .... Think about ..