Afraid of the ele­phant in the room: Car­ing for men­tal ill­ness

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - OPINION -

When it comes to a phys­i­cal ill­ness, we show sym­pa­thy and open our hearts to help friends, rel­a­tives, and even strangers on oc­ca­sion.

Men­tal ill­ness, while not man­i­fest­ing it­self phys­i­cally like many other diseases, is still stig­ma­tized. If you de­scribe men­tal ill­ness sci­en­tif­i­cally, it is the ill­ness of the part of brain which is not func­tion­ing prop­erly.

Un­like other ill­nesses, we seem to be most afraid of talk­ing about men­tal ill­ness. Why is men­tal ill­ness treated so dif­fer­ently by our so­ci­ety?

The si­lence of­ten fac­ing men­tal health mag­ni­fies the prob­lems peo­ple al­ready face with the ill­ness.

The stigma of men­tal ill­ness may lead to peo­ple not be­ing as open about shar­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences or oth­ers not of­fer­ing as much sup­port to those in need as much as other ill­nesses.

If the brain does not func­tion prop­erly, an in­di­vid­ual can have many dif­fer­ent con­di­tions, in­clud­ing de­pres­sion, ma­nia, schizophre­nia, anx­i­ety and mem­ory loss.

Left un­treated, some­one may ex­pe­ri­ence ex­treme stages such as sui­ci­dal thoughts and para­noia and pho­bias of be­ing at­tacked phys­i­cally and men­tally. Men­tal ill­ness not only af­fects the peo­ple who have it, it af­fects their fam­ily, friends and our so­ci­ety. What if the ill­ness was treated be­fore the per­son had these symp­toms? It of­ten can be prop­erly treated with care­ful mon­i­tor­ing of medicine dosage, psy­cho­log­i­cal help, pro­vid­ing meals and hous­ing and places to go for those left alone. Op­por­tu­ni­ties for sup­port, in­di­vid­ual care, and so­cial con­nec­tions will help the pa­tient greatly which in turn, will even­tu­ally help his or her friends, fam­ily and our so­ci­ety.

It seems that the care of those with men­tal ill­ness is the ele­phant in the room. Our so­ci­ety tends to not want to think or talk about it and not take care of those fac­ing men­tal health dif­fi­cul­ties; we are try­ing to sweep the is­sue un­der the rug. In­stead, it is time to take a good look at this is­sue.

As an ex­am­ple, for­mer Mas­sachusetts first lady Kitty Dukakis and Gov. Michael Dukakis both do great work to open com­mu­ni­ca­tion of this sub­ject by de­scrib­ing Kitty’s de­pres­sion and her ex­pe­ri­ences with treat­ments.

We need more of this open­ness.

Inok Magliaro is a Bethany res­i­dent.

ELISE AMEN­DOLA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, smile as they read let­ters be­tween John Adams and his wife, Abi­gail, dur­ing a Mas­sachusetts His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety pro­gram at Fa­neuil Hall in Bos­ton.

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