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Alyson MacDonald

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What do you think of as a mental illness? And do you think mental illness is a actual serious illness?

There are many types of mental illnesses from obsessive compulsive disorder to depression, but oftentimes when you are stricken with these typed of illness the sympathy and support that friends and family usually give you disappears. Why is that? Is it simply they don't understand or is it that they don't believe it's an actual illness?

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  • Anne N

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    Nov 16 2012: Interesting topic! The below are my views.

    First, when one cannot physically SEE an illness, one often assumes that it is not as serious or that it cannot be cured. Some may think people with mental illness are overreacting and do not give them sympathy while others may feel that mental illness is an innate part of a person and cannot be cured. (This isn't true, there are treatments for mental illnesses which have been proven to be effective)

    Secondly, some family members or friends may think that the mental illness is a part of the person and that it isn't an illness so much as a personality change that cannot be undone. For example, a mental illness often affects how a person presents his or herself to the world. In other words, a person with mental illness may behave in ways that differ from their personality or deviate from social norms. This may cause their friends and family to think the person has lost their sense of self and withdraw their support. Having said that, although the person may be behaving differently, he or she behaves in certain ways BECAUSE they are ill and need time and other interventions to recover. Often times, people's mental illnesses are also linked to chemical imbalances in their brains (when we look at it this way, a mental illness is also a physical illness, but people often forget that the brain is physical, in a sense).

    Thirdly, one may think that as it's an illness of the mind, their family member/ friend should have been able to control their mind and not fall ill. There are different schools of thought for this but the truth is, mental illnesses are illnesses and should not be stigmatised just as physical illnesses aren't. The stigma comes in because of how it appears to change one's personality, in my opinion.
  • Nov 17 2012: I used to be one of those people who don't really consider mental illnesses as "real" unless it was someone hallucinating and talking to invisible people like in the movies. Now, after having experience with a loved one who has a mental illness, my opinion has completely changed. It is definitely a very real disease, and can be just as traumatic as diseases that we can see right away. In some ways it can be worse because of how many brush mental illness off as unimportant or how people with mental illness are usually stigmatized.

    I don't believe there is enough education about it, and what is portrayed in various forms of media do nothing to alleviate the misinformation. For example, someone who has depression will not necessarily LOOK depressed. They will be able to put on a happy face and function normally all while contemplating ending their life. In situations like this, compassion is the most useful thing, so when sympathy disappears from the most important people, nothing but bad can come from it.

    Mental illness cannot be brushed off. A person who got shot and a person who is contemplating suicide from depression should be treated the same. They are both sick and both need help, even if it's different kinds of help. This is something that is very serious to me as a friend of mine voluntarily went to a hospital and said "Help me. I'm suicidal." and the nurse told him he wasn't suicidal enough and turned him away. That is the equivalent as someone saying that a patient's cancer isn't bad enough.

    There just isn't enough education about the topic as people avoid it. There needs to be more compassion and realistic education so hopefully mental illness will be taken more seriously.
  • Nov 15 2012: Yes they are real illnesses. Anything that impairs someone from a reasonable quality of life is a health problem.

    Mental illness is tragic and insidious as it causes its victim to have an altered basis for normal comparison.

    I agree that ignorance about the types of mental illness is another cruel reality for the diseases.
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    Nov 14 2012: It is because people simplify mental illnesses(there is so much ignorance about it), and it is usually thought that it is possible to 'reason' out of it; the sick are usually blamed for 'losing their minds'.
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    Nov 14 2012: I think the more functional a person is in daily life and the less his life-expectancy is affected by his condition, the less attention he may get for his condition.

    Both OCD and depression can look like extreme versions of common symptoms. What this means is that people may not appreciate how severely disabling these can get.

    Another issue may be how much attention people want from others for the illnesses from which they suffer. Some people strongly prefer for people not to define them in terms of their illnesses or relate to them in terms of their illnesses. Knowing this, friends and family may not comment on a condition or may want to send a message they think is positive of not being focused on the person's illness.