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Saturday, October 5, 2013

The First Step Towards Eradicating Stigmas About Mental Illness...

Eradicating Stigmas About Brain Disorders

"Misconceptions about mental illness contribute to the stigma, which leads many people to be ashamed and prevents them from seeking help," said Constance Lieber, NARSAD President. "Dispelling these myths is a powerful step toward eradicating the stigma and allaying the fears surrounding brain disorders."

In light of the two recent incidents involving Human Beings struggling with mental illness--the operative word, here, is light; we must shine light on these misconceptions--, I thought it my responsibility to do my very best to help dispel myths, and eradicate stigmas associated with mental illness.

If I were to ask you to survey your friends, family members, and co-workers about how many of them are or have been in therapy, and just how many of them would consider therapy and psychotropics, I would wager my two tickets for the Andrea Bocelli's show at Barclays Center, that you would not find too many truthful or positive answers, beliefs about therapy and psychotropic drugs.

The wherefore is complex and simple, and so to understand it, please be ready cognitively for a paradox:  successful therapy is about change in general, embracing change physically and mentally, but despite the fact we are always, constantly in the process of change, we resist it as it were most retrograde, unintegral to our being.  Add to that the stigmas and myths to that boiling, insidious cauldron, and you have resistance to change, and acceptance of the mental, physical status quo, even it is most dreadful, as if Hades, himself, had ordained it.  Yes, simple and complex!

But wait, we are not done adding more insidious ingredients to our boiling cauldron!  Add to it the fact that most of us have no understanding whatsoever of what goes on in therapy, we tend to always allow those myths, and stigmas to take root in our minds as proven facts, or empirical knowledge, especially, when our social group rewards us with ongoing membership in good standing--we are social animals, and thus need to belong--when we accept the myths, stigmas without any qualms, or our own investigation into the unknown.

Another ingredient we must add:  the fear of psychotropic drugs instilled in us by our culture, media, parents, and social groups.  Psychotropics help the patient to be available for therapy, in that sense, one may say that they work in concert with successful therapy. The fear of the side effects of the drugs belies the more potent fear of changes that happen physically and mentally within a period of days, which again one would want to resist consciously or subconsciously, out of fear of losing one's mental, physical status quo.

  • Myth: “People who need psychiatric care should be locked away in institutions.”
Fact: "Today, most people can lead productive lives within their communities thanks to a variety of supports, programs, and/or medications."

  • Myth: “Mentally ill persons are dangerous.”
Fact: "The vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent. In the cases when violence does occur, the incidence typically results from the same reasons as with the general public such as feeling threatened or excessive use of alcohol and/or drugs."
Then, add the above two myths, stigmas to the insidious cauldron, and you have individuals of all socio-economic backgrounds avoiding, resisting therapy, or change, essentially, which is just noble Human-to-Human sharing of life lessons, empirical knowledge, and experiences in a most humane, professional setting.

Also, I must state emphatically that the responsibility, always, lies with the individual for his/her own mental health, and to seek help of a good Therapist, and to stay on, faithfully, one's prescribed regimen of psychotropics when needed.  Absolutely no one else is responsible for the individual's shame, guilt, and lack of courage to seek therapy, despite the stigmas, myths associated with brain disorders, but the individual himself/herself.  We are each responsible for consequences we make as individuals, and to reflect, gain insights into how we, ourselves, create our own circumstances in life, and thus, not assign blame on society, family, culture, social group, but to be at the helm of our lives as mistress of our fate, and within that insight, choice lies one's empowerment, and the journey to become more Human in the face of the Existentialist angst, the philosophers remind us of.

So now ask yourself, then:  Am I ready to take advantage of therapy?  Would I be available to take advantage of therapy, if I were in need of?  Do I have to wait for a complete bottom-out crisis, giving me only two choices, death or change, to take advantage of therapy?

          Myth: "Psychiatric disorders are not true medical illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. People who have a mental illness are just "crazy."

Fact: "Brain disorders, like heart disease and diabetes, are legitimate medical illnesses. Research shows there are genetic and biological causes for psychiatric disorders, and they can be treated effectively."

           Myth: "Depression results from a personality weakness or character flaw, and people who are depressed could just snap out of it if they tried hard enough."

Fact: "Depression has nothing to do with being lazy or weak. It results from changes in brain chemistry or brain function, and medication and/or psychotherapy often help people to recover."

Here's to the wonderful, magical experiences of successful therapy!  Here's to dispelling myths and eradicating stigmas about mental illness or brain disorders!

With agape,

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