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05:58 AM on 10/24/2009
Dear Glenn,

Thank you for the insightful post. My own family suffers as yours, and in silence. The tragic result of that willful silence was the suicide of my only sister in August.

Hindsight is a very painful lesson, and an unnecessary one. I hope everyone understands the importance of helping, not the stigma of hiding.
05:09 AM on 10/24/2009
In my experience, the stigma of mental illness is nowhere near as dangerous as the stigma attached to taking medication to alleviate it, especially if those medications are Controlled Substances. Law Enforcement Officials have far, far too much power in regulating the treatment of mental illness and chronic pain than they should have. Get the DEA out of my Doctor's office!
Rolf K. Artist, worker of metal, writer of poems
04:22 AM on 10/24/2009
I have through the years enjoyed reading the works of one psychiatrist in particular, Dr. Thomas S. Szasz with his second book being "The Myth Of Mental Illness" through to "The Age Of Madness".

Being as he has been very contreversal, Dr. Szasa has brought new and enlightening insight into the whole industry of crazyness and the drug industry feeding from it and the drug pushers, (medicine pushers) working for it....

Some really brilliant stuff for those so inclined to seek deeper into the business of madness.

From Rolf
04:17 AM on 10/24/2009
DaveKernen wrote:

Hating them? They can seem scary and dangerous?
You have just shown how to spread stigma.
Only those without knowledge of mental illness would think those that suffer from it seem scary or dangerous.


Other people may not be in the same kind of denial that you present in your post.

There are prisons and locked mental wards filled with mentally ill people who have committed murder, arson, sexual assaults, battery, etc. Pretending that this isn't true -- or that their behavior has no correlation with their untreated or under-treated mental illness -- serves no one and is disingenuous.

In Seattle, there have been several very high-profile cases of under-treated psychotics -- who should never have been on the street -- committing murder against random, innocent strangers.

By pretending that allowing these people on the street was not the act of a FAILED mental health system does nothing to protect the public and nothing to help keep the criminally insane safe, either.

We're not stupid. We know that SOME mentally ill people do incorporate total strangers into their dangerous -- even deadly -- psychosis. From the 1% to 2% of the clinically depressed who commit suicide who decided in their mental illness to "take" one or more others with them into death, to psychopathic serial killers, to mass murderers like the boys at Columbine and the Virginia Tech killer -- we all see on the news every day the results of our failed mental health system.
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05:56 AM on 10/24/2009
The dramatic endings, as Glenn said very clearly, are the ones that get media attention. Her own "Fatal Attraction" ending was changed from the true-to-life likely outcome, suicide, to homicide, for ratings.

The vast, vast majority of cases of mental illness are invisible, the "victims" silently suffering, exploited, abused, abandoned. It's a contagious illness, in that it often causes depression in the people who love them (besides often being hereditary). And while tossing the mentally ill into the streets was a travesty, locking them/us up was by no means "humane". The criminally mentally ill are a minority. Glenn's statement shocked even me, as obvious as it's become to me that depression is spreading like wildfire:

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by the year 2020 mental illness will be the second leading cause of death and disability.
08:25 AM on 10/24/2009
well good for you!!! you are well informed about the failings of our mental health care system by the rare story on the news or plot on a hit network tv show. That's a rediculously tiny percentage of what's really going on.
Seriously just ponder how many shootings, robberies, drug busts, car jackings, kidnappings, child and domestic abuse cases that aren't covered by the six o'clock news... then add to it extortions bank fraud, insider trading, money laundering and ponzi schemes that the public isn't informed about either
then you might have some appreciation for the failings in mental health care
09:10 PM on 10/24/2009
I'm not drinking the "the mentally ill are not dangerous" Kool-Aid.
12:53 AM on 10/24/2009
The character of Raymond Babbitt in Rainman was autistic savant. While some characteristics may seem in keeping with one another, autism is a developmental disorder, not a form of mental illness. I don't point this out to suggest there is or should be any greater stigma to either, or to nitpick your outstanding post, but because it is my hope that we are ever advancing upon greater sociatal understanding of mental illness, and we certainly are of autism. Distance though we still have to go.
09:23 AM on 10/24/2009
Thank you for pointing out this one flaw, in an otherwise enlightening post, clearly and concisely.
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01:33 AM on 10/25/2009
Alexandria, VA

Good point about the nature of autism.
11:54 PM on 10/23/2009
In the meantime, I'd like to ask that people are accepting, understanding, and patient with those around you who have issues. Don't be so quick to give them a diagnosis or label. Don't EVER judge someone for taking meds. Just like meds don't always work for everyone, "natural cures" often don't work for anyone with a severe mental illness. For example, I know my ADD issues are largely biological (nature), because otherwise drugs like Adderall wouldn't work or they would make things worse. Some people with ADD, though, are helped with simple organization in combination with Omega-3 supplements and caffeine, and their illness is more influenced by environment (nurture). Though both biology and environment are factors (the latter of which being the best explanation scientists have for the increase in all mental illnesses in our society), every individual falls on a different side of the nature-nurture spectrum.

One thing that always gives me hope, though, is when I look at lists of famous and influential people who have been mentally ill. Even if the differences in my brain can make everyday life difficult, it's those same differences that fuel my strengths. For example, anxiety and depression have both given me an uncanny ability to empathize, and that's an essential skill for an aspiring author/screenwriter.

So, this has been a little long-winded, but I hope I can provide a little insight for those of you reading this who don't know what it's like being "mentally ill".
11:53 PM on 10/23/2009
It's my hope someday that more people (like myself) will come out and say, "Yes, I'm mentally ill in more ways than one," and not have to feel ashamed. I've felt so much shame and guilt in the past few years because every single time I have to miss work or drop and even fail classes at school because my combined ADD and anxiety make it too difficult, I feel like I'm letting people down. It's a horrid feeling, believe me. Sometimes people are accepting to a point, but then they think I'm simply trying to get out of doing things. Other times they simply don't understand at all and are dismissive.

I don't blame them... Unless you know what it's like, it's impossible to truly understand the struggles people like myself go through every single day. Maybe someday more people can understand without having to experience it themselves.
12:36 AM on 10/24/2009
I've gone through a lot of the same things and I myself do not yet fully understand it. In college I even kept a supply of blank medical excuse forms that I would fill out to excuse myself from exams when my anxiety got too out of control. I know it sounds crazy and illogical, but it was real. So you are not alone and do not need to feel ashamed.
02:04 PM on 10/24/2009
Of course this has absolutely nothing to do with ridiculous expectations being thrust on our student body!!! Saddled with debt and so much social pressure it would make the Royal Family cry foul! Who needs it?!!! >:{
01:15 PM on 10/24/2009
Eat a lot less, get outside and get a lot of exercise and stop being the center of your world!
Volunteer and get in contact with lotsof other will be amazed , after a hard day of helping
other people , rather then focusing on yourself, how much better you will feel.
02:01 PM on 10/24/2009
That is just so presumptuous and appallingly simplistic.
04:01 AM on 10/25/2009
Is this advice you'd offer to a diabetic, someone with congestive heart failure, a paraplegic, and if so, could each expect the same results? To feel better? Think about it.
11:51 PM on 10/23/2009
Thank you, Glenn. Many stigmas still exist, and you are so right about mental illness being a prime example of that.

Every family has a connection to it. We all feel unstable from time to time, so it's fairly easy to wonder if we, too, may one day lose control or act out or do something highly uncharacteristic that may shame us or humiliate us. Perhaps that is why many are so fearful of those with actual mental illness.

While being an alcoholic or drug addict is somehow perversely "acceptable" in our society in contrast to more severe mental/emotional illness, self-medicating is rampant. Many of us are on anti-depressants. Yet when we see a vagrant, we recoil. It's a spectrum of disorders.

One day soon, hopefully, there will be clearer diagnoses and better therapies, treatments and/or medications. Until then, there needs to be more tolerance and understanding.
11:08 PM on 10/23/2009
Mental illness can be a painful subject to broach not because of any stigmas, so much, as the motivations behind these. Asking ourselves *why* and *what purpose is served* by stigmas on the subject is paramount in determining the underlying cultural reasons for so much ignorance. There is no such thing as mental illness. There can be a deformity of the chemical composition of the brain, or a predisposition to this caused by excess sensitivity— which is congenital in origin, or there can be environmental triggers to cause behavioral imbalance in an otherwise healthy, balanced indiividual.

Just the fact that B vitamins are essential for our emotional wellbeing is a sign that our mental health is a mere reflection of our behavioral capacity. The human body is a complex organism, and it needs all of it's most intricate parts to function optimally. Take a few key elements out of the picture, and you can have developmental problems.

Then there is the issue of behavior modification techniques that are detriment to the psyche being employed in our education systems, and throughout child culture. Nobody in charge is going to take responsibility for that sort of a mess. They can only be humored because in committing these acts of terror, they have already shown no capacity for empathy to begin with. These [aforementioned] stigmas are constructed to shelter abusive people from the consequences of their own mentally ill behaviors. So be it. We choose whether we want to participate in that lie.
11:15 PM on 10/23/2009
And how could I forget to mention the reality of substance abuse— not use— and it's effect on our emotional centers? We need to look more honestly about how "mental illness" is defined.
10:25 PM on 10/23/2009
I think one of the reasons for the silence is that problems of the mind and emotions come in shades of gray, as well, and many of us feel self-stigma about our own shortcomings. We need to be able to talk more openly about the things that scare us and hurt us, and not be afraid of looking weak. I guess one could say, we simply need more compassion in our society, overall.
09:39 PM on 10/23/2009
I am a mental health counselor and would love to hear, for those willing to share, which aspects of counseling you found to be most effective?....thanks.
12:25 AM on 10/24/2009
For me, the best thing was to focus on things that were going well. It gave me the confidence boost to get other things in order. Over-analyzing everything to death was what I found to be least useful. The truth is, sometimes I just don't know why I do things and despite years of training, psychologists often don't have any better of an idea than I do. Find small things that you think the client can do successfully and then build on that.
08:43 PM on 10/23/2009
My adult son was bipolar ,and he took his life 10 years ago. I've written a book about his struggle with the illness, his suicide, the aftermath, and how I've survived. Yet, I find it's a subject that agents don't want to deal with -- it's not a subject they feel they can market successfully. Yet, my whole purpose in writing the book is to get the subject matter out there. Parents of children who are mentally ill need information about all the ramifications of the illness, and they need to know that it is possible to survive if sucide, a real possibility, is a result. Glenn, you are so right. We need to get rid of the stigma attached to mental illness so we can deal with it successfully.
Thank you for your thoughts.
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06:04 AM on 10/24/2009
I wish your book was published. I have a friend who went through it with her son. My dad was a suicide, from chronic depression. Isn't HuffPo publishing books - for no pay - so that the books get exposure, maybe a future contract? I read somewhere they got a deluge of manuscripts. Check it out, please.
02:29 PM on 10/25/2009
Thanks so much. I will check it out. Plus I haven't given up on the traditional route -- querying the agents.
from the Far side of Frostbite Falls
12:41 AM on 10/25/2009
It has been very helpful to read these true stories - one story provided good information about effectiveness of medications and prompted me to discuss a particular one to the doctor, leading to a very good result.
08:35 PM on 10/23/2009
Thanks for this article. Pay no heed to the predictable $cientologist anti-psychiatric posts.

I know my personal experience, as do you. Ignore them.
08:02 PM on 10/23/2009
As I studied psychology, there was always a deep dividing line between nature and nurture.
I see where "anti-psychiatry" thinks we should not call mental illness a disease. I'm all for trying natural healing, however, some people need to get their chemical imbalance done quickly, as they can be a danger to themselves or others. Yes, you can see the results of a brain gone wrong on pet scans. Scientists have sliced brains after death to find strange things..

We do need to help those who need it, not shun them. I, needed a psychologist when going through a divorce, but my then husband said it would show on our insurance and we wouldn't be able to get good health insurance.
I was almost killed by a long time friend I hadn't seen for years. I didn't know he was schizophrenic affective disorder, until one strange evening he told me he was afraid of me, and thought I was trying to kill him, and locked himself in a bedroom.-- he said "I hate to do this, but it is you or me," and proceeded to strangle me.-he called the police and told them I was a drug addict (my Zoloft), and they arrested both of us, and it cost me $25,000 or more. Evidence was erased because of police blunders.
A friend's daughter is in jail right now for killing her husband, December
. She was on the wrong meds, and thought he was going to do her harm.
12:27 AM on 10/24/2009
They can't arrest you because someone said you are a drug addict. They need evidence.
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06:11 AM on 10/24/2009
"the wrong meds" - yet another reason people are afraid to seek help. Mercy. Getting almost killed and bankrupted by a mentally ill friend - yet another reason many are terrified of being anywhere near the mentally ill. I'm sorry you had to go through that, and how much more clearly can you show what happens when we deny our own need for help or can't get or accept help, as your friend did. As another poster recounted, "fear of losing access to affordable health insurance" - yet another reason to keep our diseases "in the closet".

With all the uncertainty people are suffering financially, in keeping their homes and jobs, their families together, is it any wonder domestic violence, child abuse, and suicide are on the rise?

Great timing for this article Glenn, and no surprise it's so widely read. Hang in, get help, help each other, everyone.
07:20 PM on 10/23/2009
As you suggest, the best treatment is open-ness.
A new book was published in the UK last month entitled MOOD MAPPING. It is written by a bipolar sufferer who was a neurosurgeon - Dr Liz Miller. She sets out, in day-to-day practical terms how to know and control your mood avoiding drugs with complex side effects.
It is mental health without the drugs.