Having seen and heard what a whole lot of people think and perceive about the mentally disordered ones. It is to my greatest shock to overwhelmingly say that there are a lot of enlightened people who have wrong misconceptions about those that are ill mentally.
Despite the fact that we have become more knowledgeable in almost every area of our corporate and national life, many of us still choose to neglect the most fundamental issues that could help others embrace a meaningful life.
Why is it so? The reason for this is not too far from the answers which you will get along the course of this article.
Over a decade-plus, when my handsome son was diagnosed with a mental disorder (bipolar disorder). A lot of things happened that altered the relationship which I had with several people most especially within my neighbourhood. As people within my neighbourhood gradually became aware of my son’s mental condition. Personally, I observed that their attitude and conduct towards my family and me changed from what it was to something worse. That is, from good to bad. At first, being the only parent or a single mom of my two sons, the situation was very terrible. People had this awful look on their faces as if something was weird. They would sometimes make awkward gestures just because someone is not well in my home.
Mental Illness and Stigmatization
Stigmatisation is one of the problem(s) faced by those who are ill mentally. This stigmatisation is most at times worse than those that accompany other forms of disease such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other deadly sicknesses.
I for one would say that stigmatisation is the most dangerous factor that can worsen the condition. It brings fear and limitation, not only to the sick individual but also the ability of the entire family members to effectively carry out their social responsibilities.
We as humans need to stop stigmatising. We need to restructure our mindset towards mental illness and know that it is an illness which drains the victim both mentally, emotionally and otherwise. They do not wish to be ill just as someone with cancer, hypertension and other forms of disease do not pray to be subjects of the disease. It just comes without notifying the victim. Therefore, the society, starting from the respective individual that makes it up must accept them, learn and develop ways of coping with them. We need to embrace, support and love them. They are the sufferer of the disease. Let us, through our actions and inactions not add to the pain that they are going through.
My Lessons Learnt as a single Mom to a Mentally Ill Son
Along the line of supporting and loving my son in spite of his ill health, I have learned quite some things that I wish people knew about mental disorder. They are misconceptions that the large group of healthy people has about them. There are ways in which you can help a loved one who is subject to such illness.
Here is a list of ten things that I wish people knew about mental disorder.
1. Mental disorder is not a death sentence:
It is often the perception of people to think that mental disorder is the end of life. That one suffering from it is crazy and always behave or fit out of place. Sometimes, they see that mental illness cannot be treated, cured or perhaps, managed. Mental Illness is just like any other physical disease that is caused by a physiological imbalance of the body function. The mentally ill should not be crucified neither should they be placed on the death warrant. Rather, they should be given the desired care, love, support and emotion that is required for them to get through the illness and effectively manage it.
One of the most important factors that are widely used in the management of illness is the show of love, care and support. Aside from research and my personal experience in managing my sons’ illness, I have learned that their prescribed medications, if taken as at when due, is crucial to the regulation of crisis such as abrupt changes in their mood. Therefore, as part of effective management, love, care, support and their medication are crucial to their well-being.
2. The concept of stigmatisation of the mentally ill should end:
Stigmatization is a crippling factor that is being faced by the mentally ill persons and up to their family. The effect of it could linger on even after there is full recovery of the affected person. This lingering effect could cause social withdrawal, sometimes depression and even relapse of the illness. It is because the individual may be stigmatised by people in his or her school, workplace, the neighbourhood and by the society in general.
Stigmatization is something that starts with the individual where the individual’s mindset towards those that are ill is static. It may be due to lack of information or just mere beliefs and orientation. This needs to be put to an end! We need to restructure our mind and be open to learning ways that can be used to better the lives of the mentally disordered. By doing this, the society will have a better orientation and a positive attitude towards those with mental illness.
3. Mental disorder is just a sickness like any other physical illness
Most people have the orientation that mental illness is entirely a different kind of disease. They feel that it is something “out of bounds” which the victim cannot come out of. Sometimes, they would make statements like “he’s crazy,” “he’s a madman.”
The truth is that they are ignorant of the fact that it is the same kind of sickness that affects any other part of the body. As an example, when the hormone insulin produced is in a reduced quantity that is not enough for the body to convert glucose to glycogen which is stored as fat, it results in hyperglycemia which is the onset of diabetes mellitus. So also, when the brain has too much or too less of serotonin or other neurotransmitters, it results in mood disorder and other forms of mental illness.
By using this example, you’ll realise that it is just the imbalance of chemicals in the brain that may cause the illness. Furthermore, people with mental illness are not dying or in a sick bed. They are strong. Maybe stronger than some of us. They also have the same physiological needs that we have such as eating, the need to feel love, they seek shelter, and the list goes on and on. The essence of this point is that we shouldn’t see mental illness as a different type of disease. It is just the same as any other sickness. Do not place it in a separate box!
4. The mentally sick person needs the love, care, support and comfort that we show to others that are sick
Emphasis is the key to retaining and knowledge. I’ve said this point over and over again because it is a fundamental way of promoting the right mental health of the mentally disordered ones. Let’s go out there and show them the necessary care and attention that can they need. Though they may say things that are “out of the blue” or misinterpret information, lets calmly, when needed and talk to them. They are quite good at listening, so, have a good relationship and spend quality moments with them.
5. We can efficiently manage a mental disorder
For someone with High blood pressure (hypertension), such person can manage the illness. With continuous management, gradually hypertension will be reduced. The type of management that can bring about the reduction of the blood pressure is a lifelong taking of anti-hypertensive drugs such as Nitroglycerin, e.t.c. So also is the case of a person with mental illness. They are given drugs by their physician that are used to manage the illness. As soon as the effect of the drugs begin to manifest and the person has rare signs of episodes, the dosage of the medication will reduce, hence, if continuous, the disorder will be effectively managed.
6. Do not attempt to fix them
They are just who they are. They may or may not recollect things that they have done. In as much as you are trying to help them out, accept them for the illness that they have. Out of emotion, do not pour out your anger on them. Just be loving to them and give them the necessary medication and let nature have its cause.
7. Develop ways of coping with them
In as much as they have faults and wrongdoings before your sight, learn to love them with their weaknesses and develop methods to live peacefully with them. Have coping mechanism that can counterbalance the effect of their actions which may seem unpleasing to you.
8. Learn and know what triggers their crisis
By learning what will trigger them to having an emergency will equip you to plan and prepare ahead. For example, someone with bipolar disorder who has mood swing from the high excitable state to the low, sad, depressive state can be behaviorally managed. When such person is at the excitable state of mania, manipulate the environment and reduce the cause of excitability. On the other end of depression, find means to talk to the individual and make the atmosphere lively.
9. They easily trust other and are truthful. So be the same
The mentally ill ones say things the way it comes to them. Though it may differ, they are one of the most truthful groups of people. As a result of this nature, they expect whoever is there for them to be the same.
10. They want you to be at peace with them
Just as they are, they want people not to be scared of who they are. They seek companionship and friendship. Be one to them. But while being a friend, be cautious and not terrified. Be smart and enlighten others so that the society will not hunt or stigmatise them.
In conclusion, this guide applies to other illness aside mental disorder. If only people knew how those who are mentally ill feel when they are stigmatised, lonely and laughed at, the corrective measure would have been put in place. I argue us to show them the care, love and support they need to live in our midst. They are also human, and they should be treated as one.
Kindly share this piece on your social media accounts, email to your friends who need to read this. Stay blessed.