Mental Illness: A Society of Stigma Essay
I would like to start this essay by saying that mental illness is an issue that hits extremely close to home. Both of my uncles on my fathers side developed schizophrenia in their 20’s. One of them, upon being diagnosed, committed suicide. This happened before I was born, but the fall-out is still visible in my family. The other now lives in a home for those with mental illness.
He is on medication, which helps with many of the symptoms, and has been an important pillar in my life. There is a fair chance that either my brother or I may contract schizophrenia, and for these reasons, mental illness will always be a large part of my life. I say this, not to arouse pity, but simply to make a point that no matter where you stand on mental illness, chances are that you or someone close to you will endure some type of mental illness. We are all responsible to aid those who are in need of it, and the way we respond to the call will define us as human beings.
A concise definition or idea of mental illness is fairly difficultly obtainable. Mental illness covers an extremely wide range of cases, symptoms and patients, which makes a cumulative definition hard without leaving out many main areas.
A definition of mental illness is further impeded by taking into account the personal subjective ness of a mental illness (eg: some may view homosexuality as a mental illness). One of the more inclusive definitions describes mental illness as: “A pathological state of mind producing clinically significant psychological or physiological symptoms (distress) together with impairment in one or more major areas of functioning (disability) wherein improvement can reasonably be anticipated with therapy. In addition, for the purpose of definition only, mental illness includes alcoholism, and drug abuse and other controlled substance (drug) abuse.”
The above definition misses much of the individual experiences of mental illness. Mental illnesses will disrupt a person’s feelings and emotions, the way they think and view their surrounds, and their moods. Mental illnesses will also affect a person’s ability to communicate and relate to others.
Although symptoms and diagnosis of mental illnesses are fairly well known and classified into separate afflictions, the causes are less understood. In many ways the cause of mental illness boils down to a debate of nurture vs. nature: whether mental illnesses are the results of our environmental and situational experiences, or whether mental illnesses are inherited and passed on through gene-specific traits. Some types of mental illnesses are thought to be categorized into either the nature (ADHD, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia), or nurture category (anorexia, alcohol abuse), but without further developments into the workings of the brain, and also in genetics, it is hard to tell for sure.
In Toronto there exist numerous organizations and establishments that have been created over the years to aid and assist those affected by mental illnesses. Some examples of these are institutes that provide shelter and psychiatric care for patients such as the Center for Addiction and Mental Heat; organizations that provide those with mental illnesses the oppourtunity to work and develop a sense of self-value and self-esteem; places like the Scott Mission that provide meals and shelter for homeless and unemployed, many of whom are living that way due to mental illness (or who have developed mental illness due to poverty); and Parkdale Recreation center, which gives people a place to socialize and interact with others who are in similar situations, with whom they can relate.
These organizations are doing wonderful work in our communities, but there still needs to be more done. The article talks of organizations that work to give people with mental illnesses a sense of meaning, but it also talks of people surviving in atrocious, unlivable conditions. It discusses people living in a fear caused by the separation they feel from everyone around them. The article also talks of an issue many of us are extremely accustom to, which is the daily occurrence to witness someone with a mental illness to be living on the street. In all of these cases people are slipping .