You might be surprised to see that an eleven-year-old is interested in mental illness, but lo and behold, here is one who is very interested in the topic.
According to an online article published by the Mayo Clinic, “Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions: disorders that affect your mood, thinking, and behavior.” This is a pretty good definition of what mental illness basically is. Some people believe that mentally ill people are bad to be around and stupid, and that self-harm and suicide are stupid, and that they should just punch a pillow. The truth is, they don’t have a choice. It doesn’t in any way mean you are stupid if you have a mental illness. Sometimes, punching a pillow just doesn’t cut it, especially when there’s an illness changing your brain and the way it works.
Mental illness can range from schizophrenia to anxiety or addiction. Some people have an illness and don’t realize it, mostly for two reasons: one, the illness is not very severe, and/or two, people are given the wrong information and don’t realize that their problems are serious. Also, treatment is very expensive, and sadly, some people cannot afford the help they need. Sometimes, not getting your illness treated early can let it develop into something more serious.
There is one mental illness that seems to have been debated a lot more than others. A lot of people say it isn’t real, and just an excuse for bad behavior, even if they do know mental illness is real. Of course, a lot more people keep preaching that it is real, and it has affected their lives greatly. I am talking about Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, or ADHD for short.
People who don’t believe in ADHD say things like, “It’s an excuse for hyperactive kids,” and, “It’s just bad parenting.” Some common misinformation about ADHD includes: it’s caused by sugar; children outgrow it by high school; kids prescribed with ADHD drugs have an unfair advantage at school; and even that ADHD only affects boys. The ADHD Mythbusters, part of ADHD Aware, say they have proved all of these things false.
Unfortunately, ADHD isn’t the only part of mental illness that has been looked down upon and occasionally debated. I interviewed a couple of people, both fairly misinformed on mental illness, about the topic, to see what people are thinking about it. The questions went over fairly well, except when I asked about self-harm and suicide.
The first person I interviewed was Kailen Mitchell, age ten. “I think that it would have to be hard to live normally,” she said when asked what she thought of people who had mental illnesses in general. Mitchell compared what it’s like to have a family member diagnosed with mental illness to when her sister was diagnosed with dyslexia. “I would have been surprised,” she began. She claims she understands, in a way, about self-harm and suicide, but, “It’s just like… not a very good thought to have.” Mitchell appeared to have trouble articulating her thoughts at this point.
The second person I interviewed, who wished to remain anonymous, says that while mental illness isn’t relevant to her life, it is important to the community. Similar to Mitchell, though, when asked about her thoughts on self-harm and suicide she seemed to get confused. After it was explained what self-harm was, she seemed to understand more, but was still slightly confused.
People would probably be less confused and discriminatory to the mentally ill if we talked about it more. “Stigma flourishes in conditions of silence and shame,” said Dr. Jessica Katzman, an expert in clinical psychology. She conducts weekly therapy, and gives her clients opportunities to practice other therapeutic activities, such as anger management, expressive arts, harm reduction, and soft skills.
Katzman also noted that many people that seek her services “come from generations of people affected by oppression, poverty, racism, and violence. However, given their limited access to services, we are often their first interactions with the system of care. This is just unacceptable, and it makes successful outcomes much more difficult and expensive to achieve than early intervention strategies.” Mental illness medications can get quite expensive, especially when people can’t get help earlier in the process of their illness.
I want people to know that mental illness is a real and serious thing. I hope that is what you will take away from my article today.