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.