Thursday, November 26, 2009

This one is for my mother

During my year as Mrs. United States and daily as a psychiatrist I am fighting to eliminate the negative stigma of mental illness. The presence of mental illness has been very real to me since I was a child. After many years or suffering without a clear cause, my mother was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder when I was in elementary school. Frequent hospitalizations, medication adjustments, ECT were part of a typical day in our household. Nevertheless, my mom is my mom, not “crazy”, “psycho” or a “freak”.

As an adult and now as a psychiatrist, the presence of stigma toward those suffering from a mental illness has become very evident to me. I believe that the source of much of this misperception is from a lack of understanding not a lack of compassion. Many people still do not know that mental illnesses are true biological illness similar to diabetes or hypertension.

They don’t understand that they are brain diseases, not character flaws. Having a mental illness does not mean that you are stupid, lazy, worthless or incompetent. You don’t develop a mental illness because you did something wrong or because you are a “bad” person. It is not your fault.

For you that are struggling with a mental illness, or have a family member who is, you are likely all too familiar with the devastating effects of stigma in your own life. Let us all work together to teach the truth about mental illnesses, as education is our most powerful weapon in the fight against stigma.

……………Be The Change You Hope To See In This World


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