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Mental health is exactly as important as physical health. Learn about “the norm,” denying our differences in demeanor, and how Xenophobia is a real thing.
When considering mental illness and the way society views it, you must understand that this problem has been ongoing since the dawn of time. Over the last two or three decades, how it is dealt with has changed, but there remains a ton of room for improvement.
What is “the norm?”
Culture can be defined as the shared values, beliefs, and norms of a society. But what happens when these norms are not shared by an individual within the group? Going a step further than that: what if this individual is completely unable to control their situation? Several hundred years ago, people with mental illnesses were merely cast out of society — in severe cases, they were even murdered for having a condition that others could not comprehend.
Fast forward to the 20th century and things had only improved a little.
Prior to the invention of chlorpromazine, an individual who was deemed “insane” or “mentally unstable” was usually locked up in a sanitarium. The key was then unceremoniously thrown away. I’m sure we have all read about the days of the icepick lobotomies. Sadly, the fact is that a modern-day female with borderline personality disorder could easily have been an ideal patient for one of those archaic procedures only a mere 60 years ago!
Denying our differences in demeanor
Let me pose a question: why does society feel that people with mental illnesses should behave, act, and interpret their existence as though they have no condition at all?
It would be completely frowned upon to do the same thing to a diabetic, someone with a disease like psoriasis, or even an individual afflicted with a common cold. So I ask again: why is it that society expects people to “deal with” and hide not only their emotions but their mental pathologies as well?
It is still far too common today that one person advises another to simply “stop having those panic attacks” or to “toughen up and quit being depressed.”
How would it sound if something similar was said to the aforementioned diabetic? Get your blood glucose in line!
Why is there such a monumental perceived difference between two people suffering from a chronic condition? Why the stigma surrounding psychiatry?
Xenophobia is also a true illness
I believe this to be the result of xenophobia, that many people are scared of what they don’t completely understand. The biochemical or structural pathology of many medical conditions is easy to comprehend, yet the mind is complex and nuanced. It isn’t a tangible thing; it cannot be measured, seen, or examined the same way other systems can.
So then the question presents itself: why the inherent fear of the mind and the vast pathologies that exist within it? I picture Cro-Magnon humans emerging from their caves and throwing rocks at the moon in an attempt to knock it out of the sky and eat it. Why do we, as a society, continue to cast stones toward things we do not fully understand or can’t properly visualize?
Because it is not entirely concrete, mental illness will continue to present these kinds of conundrums for medicine and throughout society.
Let’s get better! (We are)
Culture and laws evolve with the times in order to reflect the ever-changing views and beliefs of the society in question. This is very interesting when discussing the changing perception of mental illness.
I wish society would adopt the same mentality with psychological illnesses that it has with other conditions.
Although mental health has been brought to the forefront of our attention recently, it has been one slow and arduous process. Sadly, the snail’s pace has cost human lives. The perpetrator in several mass shootings has been mentally ill. That is just the big news, but think about all the homicides and suicides we could have prevented if we were better equipped to address psychological issues.
Movies like “Joker” have thankfully illuminated not only the struggles of mental illness but also the flaws within the system and their potential repercussions. It’s getting harder and harder for the public to look away.
We are finally beginning to view mental illness in the same way we might view diabetes or an enzyme deficiency. Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders are biochemical processes as well. Thankfully, I do believe that in my brief period as a medical student on a psychiatry rotation, I was able to observe that the medical community is making great strides in the recognition and treatment of psychological pathologies.
Nothing could make me happier.
I only hope that society can follow in our footsteps and realize that psychological illnesses should be treated seriously and with care. Always remember, patients don’t WANT to have these afflictions. Remember that their reality is “normal” to them; often it can be quite scary or lonely. Unlike other pathologies in medicine, a sane person can become unstable, and an unstable person can be exacerbated through no fault of their own. All it takes is one trigger… one bad moment.
Be kind to one another, and let’s finally give mental illness the support and understanding that it deserves. Kindly share this article and feel free to reach out to us with comments or questions.
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