It seems that every time someone brings up mental illness it becomes the giant elephant in the room. People either quickly change the subject or they have very uneducated views of mental illness and what it is and what happens to those who suffer with the diagnosis. For those of us living with a diagnosis of a mental disease/illness, we try to educate those around us, but tip-toe around the fact that we suffer ourselves. There is a stigma that has surrounded mental diseases from the beginning of time that must be overcome to appropriately understand, treat, and help those suffering.
Through the last decade, mental illness has become a more prominent conversation, but still appears to be the giant elephant sitting in the room. Mental illness is still misunderstood and misconstrued. People do not understand these diseases and how they affect the millions of people that live with them.
With the rise in mass shootings, the first thought is the suspect or suspects are mentally ill. In a small minority of those cases this may be true. Mental illness has become an excuse for someone’s actions. If you look at the statistics many of those accused do not have a history of diagnosed mental illness. Since many end up committing suicide themselves before being caught they are assumed to have been mentally ill. This leaves parents, victims and victims’ families asking questions as to what did they miss? They may have not missed anything. The idea that people who commit these crimes are all mentally ill, makes it difficult for those of us truly diagnosed with a mental illness to seek and receive treatment and to let those around us know that we suffering. We suffer in silence and hide things we should be able to openly discuss and seek treatment for.
The stigma surrounding mental illness has made it difficult for those suffering with mental illness to get treatment. Patients fear the side effects of medications and the ramifications of discussing openly the thoughts of suicidal ideation or suicide attempts. Patients do not want to end up on medications that prevent them to properly function, cause extreme side effects, or end up in a mental hospital for treatment. Patients want to be able to manage their symptoms and live normal lives.
Patients want to be able to openly discuss their diagnosis just like a cancer patient would with their family and friends, and not be labeled as crazy. We have a disease that affects our mental abilities to process and function emotionally and rationally at times. We want to be understood, accepted, and taught skills to cope with our disease. We want family and friends to understand and support us. The diagnosis of a mental illness does not mean we are going to hurt and/or try to kill them or anyone else. Most people with mental illness will harm themselves during their low moments, not others.
If patients walk into a hospital during these moments we are treated like criminals, made to sit there with either a nurse in the room or right outside the room. No one will let us leave. We will be there for 2 hours or days waiting on an evaluation. Then we are pumped full of medications that leave us unable to function. If we seek care through insurance our physicians limit our appointments and medications are shoved at us and we are told to check back in 3 months. The system has not made it easy to find effective treatment.
It took me 16 years to accept my diagnosis and find effective treatment. I have experienced the mental hospital and I have been labeled and called crazy. People have walked away from me because I admitted I had depression. The question becomes, how do we overcome the stigma of mental illness? How do we change how we are treated? We have to share our experiences. We have to tell our stories and be honest about our feelings. We have to come together and educate our communities. We have educate those who do not understand the disease.
The Ketamine Wellness Center has given me a place to receive the treatment I needed. Without the Wellness Center and the ketamine infusions, I can honestly say, I would be dead. I would have committed suicide. The staff has been supportive and understanding. We all have to find what treatment works for us and talk about it. We have to remove the stigma and remove the elephant from the room. We are not defined by our diagnosis, we are defined by the character we build and the person we become through the failures and the struggles that lead to our successes.
By Sara Hobbs
Certified Personal Trainer (NASM 2014)
ASCA (American Swim Coaches Association)
Level 2 Certified – 2015