The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.
The theme for 2014 is “Living with schizophrenia”. The focus of the World Health Organization will be living a healthy life with schizophrenia.
One myth, for instance, is if you seek therapy, then you must be weak. Because you can’t fix whatever it is on your own. Because strong people pick themselves up, dust themselves off and use their strong will to barrel through their problems.
Strong people also don’t take medication, which is seen as a quick fix, a cop-out.
But would we expect a person with diabetes to survive without insulin? Is taking insulin taking the easy way out? Should a person, instead, barrel through roller-coaster blood sugar levels, willing them back to a normal range?
Would we expect someone to just deal with the pain of a broken leg without seeking medical attention? Would we expect someone to ignore a lump in their breast or merely think it away?
Unfortunately, there’s a massive double standard with mental illness. We assume these disorders are simply in a person’s 'head.'”
When my own son was struggling through difficult times I wanted him to have an MRI because I thought a brain tumor would have been easier to accept. You can look at the cells and physically see and diagnose a tumor. Depression, psychosis, dissociation, suicidal ideation, self-harming, those afflictions don’t show up on an MRI and are harder to understand and treat successfully.
I wanted my son's illness to be physical, not this intangible mental condition. I did not want to be the mother of a child with a mental illness. I wanted to run away from it, as I had wanted to run away from all of the symptoms he had displayed in the past, but I couldn’t. I needed to embrace and accept his illness. Mental illness is an intimidating disease that people shy away from, but it is only a disease and it can be treated. It is challenging, because we can’t see it or sometimes even diagnose it. Everyone wants to look at their illness on an x-ray or a scan and say, “There it is.” People with mental illness are denied that satisfaction. There isn’t anything to look at and see, to touch or quantify; it’s simply there.
In 1956, Mental Health America forged a bell from the iron chains and shackles that had previously bound the mentally ill. The bell is used as a symbol of hope to remind us that, “The invisible chains of misunderstanding and discrimination continue to bind people with mental illnesses and addictions.” We need to help people break free of those bonds in order to gain the support they need in a world where mental illness is not something they hide from or are embarrassed by, but rather an illness in need of a treatment.