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Delta, British Columbia, Canada
I took very early retirement from teaching in '06 and did some traveling in Europe and the UK before settling down to do some private tutoring. As a voracious reader, I have many books waiting in line for me to read. Tell me I shouldn't read something, and I will. I'm a happy, optimistic person and I love to travel and through that believe that life can be a continuous learning experience. I'm looking forward to traveling more some day. I enjoy walking, cycling, water aerobics & and sports like tennis, volleyball, and fastpitch/baseball. I'm just getting into photography as a hobby and I'm enjoying learning all the bits and bobs of my digital camera. My family is everything to me and I'm delighted to be the mother of two girls and the Gramma of a boy and a girl. I may be a Gramma, but I'm at heart just a girl who wants to have fun.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mental Illness and Recovery

(Taken from the National Alliance for Mental Illness)
Here are some important facts about mental illness and recovery:

1. Mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders. They cannot be overcome through "will power" and are not related to a person's "character" or intelligence.

2. Mental disorders fall along a continuum of severity. Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans — who suffer from a serious mental illness. It is estimated that mental illness affects 1 in 5 families in America.

3. The World Health Organization has reported that four of the 10 leading causes of disability in the US and other developed countries are mental disorders. By 2020, Major Depressive illness will be the leading cause of disability in the world for women and children.
4. Mental illnesses usually strike individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and young adulthood. All ages are susceptible, but the young and the old are especially vulnerable.

5. Without treatment the consequences of mental illness for the individual and society are staggering: unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and wasted lives; The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States.

6. The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports.

7. With appropriate effective medication and a wide range of services tailored to their needs, most people who live with serious mental illnesses can significantly reduce the impact of their illness and find a satisfying measure of achievement and independence. A key concept is to develop expertise in developing strategies to manage the illness process.

8. Early identification and treatment is of vital importance; By ensuring access to the treatment and recovery supports that are proven effective, recovery is accelerated and the further harm related to the course of illness is minimized.

9. Stigma erodes confidence that mental disorders are real, treatable health conditions. We have allowed stigma and a now unwarranted sense of hopelessness to erect attitudinal, structural and financial barriers to effective treatment and recovery. It is time to take these barriers down.


Oscar Levant said that there is a fine line between genius and insanity. I can truly relate to this from having had a father with (undiagnosed) obsessive compulsive disorder, a husband with diagnosed OCD/paranoia/manic depression/borderline personality disorder, and one of my children with Bipolar Disorder. All three of these family members were/are highly intelligent and creative individuals.
My Dad was an athlete and because of his personal insistance on excellence, his "disorder" helped him to become famous in his sport. However, at work and on the home front it did cause a lot of dissension when no one was ever able to live up to his expectations.
My husband was highly gifted in art and written expression. He had a quirky and highly developed sense of humour that he was able to share with family and close friends. However, his "other" self was shy, afraid of strangers, insecure, and hostile. The good old Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
My daughter is also highly creative - she has a beautiful singing voice, writes poetry and song lyrics, paints abstracts in acrylics, has an excellent eye for photography in which she prefers black and white, and designs jewelry. She's a free spirit who has tried unsuccessfully to adapt to the "accepted" lifestyle of advanced education and the workplace. However, since accepting her limitations and faithfully following her health plan, she's working part time and now has access to funding to aid in her creative endeavours. Some of her creative works will be displayed at the annual art show entitled "Frames of Mind" in July of this year.
Lately, there has been a lot of ink about mental illness in our city, mostly about people who are dual diagnosed - also being addicted to either drugs or alcohol. I truly feel for these people because they are caught in the middle, being told to get off the drugs/alcohol before getting treatment for their mental illness or vice versa.
However, the focus on these people takes away from the majority of people who do have a chronic neurological disorder and perpetuates the myth that all those suffering from a mental illness are dangerous and unpredictable or possessed by the Devil. In future, I hope to shed more light on what it's like to live with this illness, both from my own (so-called healthy) perspective and from the sufferers' perspectives.

13 comments:

Tai said...

And the stigma is generally so extreme.
Many times I've heard people glare at someone suffering with a mental illness and say "Why can't you just smarten up?"
Tsk tsk.

Great post, Leslie, really thoughtful.

Ruth D~ said...

There is so much education that needs to be done on this issue, Leslie. Or maybe I should say re-education. Meanwhile, we hurt for those we love who suffer this way.

Janice Thomson said...

An excellent post Leslie. It behooves us all to understand more about mental illnesses. Thanks for sharing this - I look forward to further posts on this subject.

Smalltown RN said...

A very informative post..the stigma of mental illness to me sometimes is worse than the illness itself....I have a nephew who is bipolar, my mom and brother suffer from depression and can be very debilitating..but as you said through pharmacology and therapy this can be dealth with and people go on living life...now how wonderful is that...it's all about educating the public ...and here you are doing just that....thank you

Casdok said...

Very interesting post. Awarness is so important because of the stigma attached.
People are also confused about the difference between mental health issues and learning disability.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Wonderful post, Leslie and I do agree that there is so little understanding about "mental illness". If you break your leg and have it in plaster, people can see it, but they can't see the suffering of someone suffering from a mental illness. Well done for posting this. xx

CrazyCath said...

Well said. Hear hear.
I cannot add anything to what you and the commentators have said except I agree with it all.

Russell said...

Very excellent, relevant, insightful and informative post.

I will tell you (and all who read this I guess!) something I have never told another person .... and why I am doing this, I have no idea. But I am going to do so here and now.

In 1986 - and I remember the day well - I walked into a classroom and began to talk about the topic of the day. It was a business law class and there were about 30 students in the room.

Suddenly my head began to spin and spin and I felt like I was going to faint. I remember reaching to hold onto the podium because I thought I was going to fall down.

Then I was overcome with this HUGE amount of fear. It was like a wave was knocking me down. I turned and wrote something on the blackboard - because I could not talk! I thought "What is going on with me!!"

I LOVED talking to groups and being in crowds. I loved being around and among people.

I had this overwhelming desire to run out of the room as fast as I could! I did step out of the room for a moment and did not want to go back in!

I did not realize it at the time, but I had suffered a panic attack. It was the most frightful thing I had ever experienced.

I managed to get back into the classroom and recovered enough to finish the lecture. But ever since that day - so many years ago - I have had to deal with those awful things from time to time.

If you have a panic attack while driving on the interstate, you become very afraid you will have another one every time you get on that same road.

If you have a PA while watching a movie, you don't want to go to a theater again because you are afraid of having it happen there!

It is an awful, horrible cycle - but it can be dealt with and overcome. But first you have to admit to yourself you need help.

So, there it is. You now know something I have not told anyone else! But I wanted to share this with you - and whoever else might stumble on this comment - because I want you to know what you discussed in this post is extremely relevant and important.

Take care.

Annie said...

Ah, you offer the voice of reason and knowledge instead of fear. Having grown up myself in a family with two who were diagnosed with schizophrenia, I know about the ignorance that exists.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

I can relate to this story very well. My youngest son is on medication for some form of Mental Health...not sure what it is called, all I know it was hard to diagnose..and it really came out when he was around 15. Very very hard to live with before the medication. I don't think there really is much help in this country for them, unless you are really bad. My sister also suffered from depression for years and unfortunately she is no longer with us.

Rosie said...

this is a subject so full of taboos it needs shaking out an airing. I am bipolar and walk that fine line between creativity and the pit. thanks for shining some light...

Country Girl said...

Such an informative post, Leslie. I applaud it. I lived with someone for years who has a disorder but refused to admit it. Still refuses. It's sad.

And Russell, your secret's safe with me. I too, had something similar happen, only it involved a bridge and it took me quite some time to get over it. Luckily, it hasn't happened since.

Mauigirl said...

Excellent post, Leslie. It is so important for people to understand more about mental disorders. My father suffered from clinical depression in his older years and I believe was borderline bi-polar when he was younger, but undiagnosed. He had extreme mood swings from talkative, jovial and upbeat to morose or angry, prone to rages. Despite this, he had a highly successful career as an advertising copywriter.

My half-sister's daughter is bi-polar and both of my father's parents suffered from depression. Luckily so far I have escaped the family fate, probably from the genes from my mother's side - a stoic New Englander who never lets anything bother her for more than 5 minutes.

Thanks for an informative post to educate others.