All Posts Tagged: depression

Mental Health Monday – Stigmatizing People with Mental Illness

Nine reasons why you need to stop stigmatizing people with mental illness.

It makes people resist getting help.

I remember how hard it was to admit that I needed help. When the words finally escaped from my mouth, they were disguised in a lot of, “I thinks” and “maybes.” When we make people feel like there is something odd/shameful about struggling with a mental health issue, we make it extremely hard for them to ask for help. When they finally do, often the effects of the illness have already wreaked havoc in their lives. When getting help should have been their first step, it’s their last resort. Adding shame, guilt and fear on top of already unbearable emotional pain is the worst thing we can do. When people don’t ask for help they continue to suffer and suffering is exhausting. It can lead to suicide.

It makes people feel like monsters.

The stigma can cause people with mental illness to feel like scary monsters instead of the awesome human beings that they are; human beings who should be celebrated for their courage and resilience!The media falsely links mental illness with violence and never shows you all the people with mental illness that are doing phenomenal things in this world. Fear gets higher ratings than brilliance so the positive stories aren’t shared. The media does such a disservice to those to suffer with mental illness and continually misrepresents who they really are. Studies show that people with mental illness, as a group, are no more violent than the general population. They are more likely to be victims of crimes. 
Stop shaming. Shame is poison to the human spirit, both to those who shame and those who internalize shame. Shame, guilt and fear corrode our dreams that need to be nourished to become reality. (Sorry, I get really Indigo Child sometimes)

It makes you accidentally hurt people you care about. 
Recently I heard a professional joke, “Someone didn’t take their meds this morning!” I was offended because this joke always describes someone acting like a total tool. People who forget to take their medication don’t suddenly act like the people you’re insulting for acting “crazy.” No one jokes about medications for physical problems, because it’s not funny. Think of all the people you interact with and care about in your life. Ok, so one out of four of them have a mental illness. You never know who is listening and how your joking or comments affect them. Educate yourself about mental illness before you make hurtful jokes or get on your soapbox. All the cool kids are not stigmatizing anymore, so you don’t want to look like a goober. (All the cool kids are also not saying goober… Opps) Anyway, you don’t see me writing an article about astronomy because I haven’t read any research about it and I’m not an astronomer… Don’t preach about what you don’t know.

It makes people feel alone.

Person 1: (tentatively) Well, I’ve been struggling with depression. 
Person 2: (awkwardly) Oh.. Cheer up! You’ve got a great life. You shouldn’t be (whispered) depressed. Try thinking positive. Well…. I have to get going! 

When people don’t talk about mental illness (or whisper it like the word itself is dirty and ugly) it makes people feel like it’s uncommon and that they are a total anomaly for not being cray-cray happy all the time. It makes them feel like freaks because they can’t, “Just smile!” and like they are the only ones who have ever felt this way since the beginning of time. It’s isolating, when community and connection are so important in healing.

It makes people go off medication.

I heard so many lame comments from people that I trusted (with no medical background) about medication, that I went off of my medication many times. I tried every alternative therapy known to man and gave 100 percent each time, but I always ended up in the same position without the medication. Each time I had to go on again I felt guilty and like a failure. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a hippie-indigo child. I did not want medication! It was a brilliant, compassionate psychiatrist who sat me down and said, “Stop it,” who finally changed my life and my attitude. She said it wasn’t weak to take medication; it was strong. It wasn’t cheating at life by taking it; I was cheating myself and everyone else by continuing how I was. She explained to me intellectually what was going on and why I need it. She changed my life.

Mental illness is not just sadness or experiencing negative emotions.

You can’t give someone advice about their treatment if you are comparing it to your own sadness. You don’t know what it’s like to be legally blind because you wear glasses, and you don’t know what it’s like to be depressed because you’ve been sad. Yes, some people use diet, exercise and alternative medicine but never shame or act like someone is weak if they need medication. It can have devastating consequences. Before you tell your cousin Mary to go off her meds and try berry smoothies and yoga, think about it. Before you tell your BFF that your friend Joe eliminated gluten (but he has amazing willpower) to cure his depression, think about it. It’s inappropriate.

It makes people feel weak.

Person 1: I had depression once.. but I was just so strong and cheered myself up with positive thinking and by readingThe Secret.You attracted your depression and with strength and being diligent about your thinking you can get over it. 
Person 2: I would like to stop talking to you now. Good-bye. 

When we shame people for needing to ask for help and get treatment, it makes them feel weak and embarrassed. We need to change our perception of this because it’s wrong and super old fashioned. It takes tremendous strength to ask for help and stay with treatment. It takes so much strength to go through the nightmare of figuring out which treatment will work, read magazines in waiting rooms from 1998, tell your story over and over, have people treat you like you’re the Hunch Back of Notre Dame, feel like you have a war inside of you, and keep up with the care that goes along with having a chronic illness. It’s bad-ass. It’s not three little kittens lost their mittens, it’s warrior status.

It makes people get crappy care.

Resident: (pumped) Hi! Great to meet you. I’ll be here about a month so I think we can develop a really solid relationship. I can meet with you for about 5 minutes today to hear your entire history! 
Patient: (sarcastically) Super. 

Care for people with mental illness should be top-notch (I mean.. wait… we are talking about the brain, here, right?) and it’s so bad. It’s expensive, crappy or just completely unavailable. We get treated like we’re kids, talked to in condescending manners, and treated like we are subhuman. The insurance companies put us on hold and play music from an elevator from the 80s for 45 minutes to then just deny our claims. Their favorite line is, “There’s nothing I can do, ma’am/sir!” (Is it in their manual or something?) The only doctor in our network is Dr. McDoesn’TGiveACrap. The psychiatrist sees us for 10 minutes and then expects us to take and stick with medication for the brain without any hesitation. The secretaries tell us nothing is available for three months but we can try the ER. Compassion and humanism are missing, and they are everything.

It makes people not know what’s wrong with them.

We have to educate kids, teens, and adults about mental illness or they may not even know that what they are going through is common, treatable and has nothing to do with their character, who they are, and all that they can be. When we are silent, they stay suffering and silent. They mirror how we feel about it.

Stop trying to decide for people who they are, what they are capable of, and what their treatment should be. Stop defining them. It’s not your job. We have to have compassion for people with mental illness and compassion for ourselves. We have to have compassion for what we don’t understand. We need stop stepping on people and see their potential. People are like flowers. They aren’t meant to be crushed, they are meant to bloom.

Rachel Griffin

Mental Health Monday—wonderful testimony filled with great news!


Your ears will hear words behind you: Go this way. There is your path; this is how you should go.” (Isaiah 30:21) 

Yesterday I promised to share some good news with you. Here’s an inspirational story filled with great news relative to mental illness!

Aimee FranklinAfter Aimee Franklin graduated in 2007 with a degree in biology from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, she moved back home to Alabama and took a job working for her father, who had to leave an Assemblies of God pastorate after a severe heart attack.

Just before leaving campus, Franklin agreed to take the entrance exams for graduate study in biomedical research at the urging of SEU faculty mentor. With little to lose, Franklin applied to the prestigious University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) Graduate School.

Miraculously, I got accepted and I quit my paper route,” she says. But a defining moment lurked just around the corner. Could she be open about her Christian faith as a research scientist at a large secular university?

I was interviewing with all of these researchers,” Franklin recalls. “One of them asked why I was going to graduate school. I said, ‘I felt called to do this.’” The researcher asked who called her. “I said, ‘I really feel like God has called me to do this,’” Franklin responded. The interviewer wanted to know if she heard an audible voice. “No, but doors keep opening and it’s something I’m very interested in,” she explained. The interview concluded successfully, and Franklin enrolled in the doctoral program in integrative biomedical sciences.

Aimee Franklin [2]Over the next nine years, more doors opened. In 2009, Franklin began research with Lori McMahon, the renowned neuroscientist who in 2015 became dean of the 5,000-student UAB Graduate School. Under McMahon’s mentorship, Franklin discovered what has become her life’s professional passion: The Human Brain.

Most of the other organs, we have them figured out,” she says. “We know so little about the brain. Everything you discover is something new. Everything is exciting.”

The larger context [of this story] is that federal funding for brain science research is growing rapidly. For 2015, the National Institutes of Health awarded at least $5.5 billion in research grants. Hundreds of millions more in research is spent on brain disorders and diseases. In 2014, NIH announced a new 10-year, “moonshot” plan to spend an additional $4.5 billion to create new tools for brain study. UAB and SEU, through the two women scientists, will support research in three areas:

  • Fragile X Syndrome, a rare inherited intellectual disability primarily in males, in which an area of the X chromosome is vulnerable to damage. This condition accounts for up to 6 percent of autism cases.
  • Major Depressive Disorder (clinical depression). About 3 million people per year are diagnosed with clinical depression.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease. One area of study at UAB is how plaques that build up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients may interfere with normal blood flow to brain neurons, a possible factor in memory loss.

Source: PE News

Mental Health Monday—not so “full disclosure”

My God, my God, why have You abandoned me? Why are You so far away from helping me, so far away from the words of my groaning? My God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer—also at night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2)

KeithHere are two men that I knew—

  • Keith was rather young while the other, well, George was as old as me … and that’s ancient!
  • Both were energetic extroverts!
  • Both were enormously talented!
  • Both were extremely industrious!
  • Both suffered with chronic depression!
  • Both walked the wasteland of despair never to return!

george 1Sometimes reporters will offer a “full disclosure” statement before relating a story, acknowledging their personal relatedness to the news. So, here’s my disclosure … though perhaps not so “full.” Shortly after I retired from pastoral ministry I had a psychotic break; or, as Archie Bunker might say, I “cracked up!” Diagnosis: acute anxiety and chronic depression. I spent five days in lockdown at Pine Rest, a wonderful psych joint (I mean that sincerely!). I’ll spare you all the other details. Suffice it to say—I often wander in the wasteland of despair.

So, when I began the Basics of Life blog, I determined to do a little part in mental illness / health awareness via Mental Health Monday. My intention is to connect with those who identify with the words of the Apostle Paul: “We do not want you to be unaware the trouble that happened in Asia. We were under great pressure—so far beyond our strength that we despaired even of living.”

Secondly, I hope to shed a glimmer of light in the devastating darkness that hovers over mental illness. C.S. Lewis wrote: “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and more difficult to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.’”

By the way, the young man is Keith. From early childhood he was a part of our church fellowship. He became a talented carpenter. George was a seminary classmate and ministerial colleague for 25 years. Without exaggeration he was one of the most influential leaders in our denomination.

Tomorrow I will share both an inspiring testimony and positive news about mental illness research that the National Institute of Health is finding. Stay tuned! In the meantime note this word from Henri Nouwen: “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.”

With deep empathy I offer this post to Gary, Camille, Dale and Bonnie.

Mental Health Monday—the stigma of mental illness

ruby waxIn recent weeks Ruby Wax and Stephen Fry have once again reminded us that the lives of the famous are not always as perfect as we might think. Not for the first time, these two stars of British TV have publicly discussed their mental health: Wax her depression and Fry his bipolar disorder. Their continued openness furthers a helpful trend among celebrities. But for the vast majority with such conditions, discussion is not the norm.

Stigma and discrimination have long been major barriers to people with mental illness. The true scale of these problems has become apparent only relatively recently. In a global study published last year (The Lancet Study), we showed that 79 per cent of people with depression had experienced discrimination in the previous year. More than 1000 people were interviewed across 35 countries, and a remarkably consistent picture emerged: such experiences are common and may severely limit how far people with mental illness can lead normal lives. 71 per cent said that they wished to conceal their diagnosis of depression from others. 

Although concealment is an understandable reaction to being shunned, it creates a problem. Concealment means that fewer friends, family and colleagues know that the person has a health problem, and so their prejudices may remain unchallenged. Concealment reduces social contact and perpetuates stigma. On the other hand, disclosure also brings real risks of discrimination. Those with mental illness are constantly confronted with this dilemma of keeping quiet or opening up.

The consequences of stigma and discrimination can be severe or even life-threatening. The average life expectancy of people with mental illness is at least 15 years shorter than that of the general population in Europe. This is, at least in part, due to less effective treatment by family doctors and hospital staff of the physical health problems of people who also have mental illness: staff sometimes misdiagnose physical complaints as being “all in the mind”, rather than investigating problems thoroughly. A further challenge is that, in every country where this has been studied, the great majority of people with mental illness do not get any treatment at all for these conditions. In poor countries this is largely because treatment is not available, but it is now clear that another important reason is that people do not seek help because stigma makes them fear loss of reputation.

Given that depression is the third biggest contributor to the global burden of disease – and the leading contributor in middle and high-income countries – anything that helps ease its impact and that of other mental illnesses needs exploring” (Graham Thornicroft and Diana Rose in The New Scientist [2013])

One of England’s most famous comedians discusses the stigma of mental illness in the following talk. Hopefully you will be both amused and awakened!