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