There are so many misconceptions and stigmas with regards to mental health, which makes it doubly difficult to deal with one when you or a loved one fall victim to mental illness. For me, when I was young mental illness simply meant people who were mentally challenged or so “crazy” they had to be admitted. But I’ve learned a lot since then. If your back can get a ruptured disk; if your intestines can be inflicted with Crohn’s Disease; if your muscles can be attacked by multiple sclerosis, if your bones can break, if your skin can bruise; then surely there are a number of things that can happen to the organ that sits at the very top of your body.
Consider the following things that we may be tempted to say to someone who suffers from a certain mental illness:
DEPRESSION — Maybe you should try looking on the bright side. Things aren’t that bad, you know.
ANXIETY — Try to calm down. Why do you get so worked up?
EATING DISORDER — Maybe you should eat something!
ADDICTION — You have to stop making excuses and just stop doing that!
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) — Maybe you should try to move on. That was a long time ago.
Ok, now let’s try and apply these same kinds of comments to other physical diseases:
DIABETES — Maybe you should try not eating as much sugar.
EMPHYSEMA — Maybe you should try getting some fresh air.
SCOLIOSIS — Maybe you should try stretching.
LARYNGITIS — Maybe you should try speaking a little louder.
MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY — Maybe you should try working out. You now, get those muscles to grow.
SKIN CANCER — Human skin regenerates itself constantly. So, you know… maybe that’ll clear things up!
SHINGLES — Maybe there’s some cream you can put on that. I’m sure it’ll be fine.
PARALYSIS — Have you ever tried to just stand up? Or like, move your pinky or something?
BLINDNESS — How many fingers am I holding up?
STOMACH ULCER — Maybe you need some milk. Want some milk?
TAPEWORM — Can’’t you just poop it out?
DECAPITATION — Hold on, I think I have some duct tape!
When Joy and I were first married we moved to Colorado and made a lot of great friends there. I remember one family that we just adored! They were so sweet and one of their children attended our youth group. She was a bright, beautiful young lady who was a joy to be around. She also suffered greatly from depression. I remember wondering how that could be. She had a loving family who lived very comfortably, lots of friends, a bright future, etc. But she would miss days and days of school because she couldn’t get herself out of bed in the morning. Some of the other teens in the group would get annoyed at her for this. They thought she was being dramatic, lazy, and making excuses for herself. A little over ten years later Joy and I received word that she had committed suicide. Depression isn’t an excuse. It’s a disease. A killer. Please be careful judging those who have it. I’m sure that her problem wasn’t a lack of “looking on the bright side.”
I find it hopeful that mental health has gotten more and more of a spotlight over the past century, especially this last decade. If you’ve never had any kind of mental illness, consider yourself blessed. Treat those who do with the kind of care and compassion you would give someone with a physical disorder. If you have, please don’t give up. Keep fighting. I mean, that’s what we want cancer patients to do.
Congratulations One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany in the Silver Linings Playbook.
Best Actor: Scatman Crothers as Turkle in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and yes it’s just because he’s got the coolest name ever. Even his character’s name is pretty cool.
Best Quote: “When I was young, I invented an invisible friend called Mr Ravioli. My psychiatrist says I don’t need him anymore, so he just sits in the corner and reads.” — Philip Seymour Hoffman as Max in Mary and Max.
OFOTCN is one of those movies that is worth reading the trivia on its IMDb page. For instance, this is the film debut of Christopher Lloyd. It is also the favourite film of both Ron Howard and Barack Obama. And finally, in Sweden this movie was shown in theatres from 1975 to 1987. That was, and still is, a record.