The Stigma of Mental Illness, (we found dog poop in the living room!)

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Robin Williams’ recent suicide has risen the awareness of many people. Over 70% who commit suicide are mentally ill.

One out of five Americans will experience a mental disorder during their lifetime.  But, people can get better.  With proper treatment, most people with a mental illness recover quickly, and the majority do not need hospital care, or have only brief admissions.

Mental illness has traditionally been surrounded by community misunderstanding, fear, and stigma.  Stigma towards people with a mental illness has a detrimental effect on their ability to obtain services, their recovery, the type of treatment and support they receive, and their acceptance in the community.

Exactly what is stigma?  Stigma means a mark or sign of shame, disgrace or disapproval, of being shunned or rejected by others.  It emerges when people feel uneasy or embarrassed to talk about behavior they perceive as different.  The stigma surrounding mental illness is so strong that it places a wall of silence around this issue.

It is like hiding the “pile” instead of dealing with it properly.

The effects are damaging to the community as well as to the person will the illness and his/her family and friends.  But at Mental Health agencies and groups all over are working hard to erase the stigma associated with having a mental illness.

In-House-46638176283_xlargeThe emphasis needs to be on supporting and treating people in their own communities, close to their families, friends and familiar surroundings.

Yet discrimination and community misconceptions remain among the most significant barriers to people with a mental illness being able to actively participate in the community and gaining access to the services they need.

But it is not only people with a mental illness who experience discrimination and stigma.  Rejection of people with mental illness inevitably spills over to the caregiver and family members.

Improving community attitudes by increasing knowledge and understanding about mental illness is essential if people with a mental illness are to live in, and contribute to, the community, free from stigma and discrimination.

People with mental problems are our neighbors. They are members of our congregations, members of our families; they are everywhere in this country. If we ignore their cries for help, we will be continuing to participate in the anguish from which those cries for help come. A problem of this magnitude will not go away. Because it will not go away, and because of our spiritual commitments, we are compelled to take action.”

~Rosalynn Carter

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Handling a Diagnosis of Tardive Dyskinesia

 

Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) is a condition of involuntary, repetitive movements of the jaw, tongue or other body movements. It frequently is a side effect of the long-term use of antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It is almost always permanent. I’ve been told Vitamin E might help a bit.  Benzodiazepines have also been used with mixed results on a short-term basis.

Some examples of these types of involuntary movements include:[3]

  • Grimacing
  • Tongue movements
  • Lip smacking
  • Lip puckering
  • Pursing of the lips
  • Excessive eye blinking

(Wikipedia)

I recently was diagnosed as having TD after the use of Zyprexa. My version is my lower jaw moves from side-to-side, unless I concentrate on not doing it. I quickly revert to this involuntary movement when I’m not aware of it. I recently saw a video of myself (with my family) and sure enough there I was, doing the ‘jaw thing.’ It was very obvious. It was also very embarrassing. (I have the ‘lithium jitters’— where my hands always shake, but TD is different.)

There are a couple of things I might mention:generics7

1) I’ve discovered that there is a real social isolation with this TD stuff. To be doing this in public is “not acceptable.” I have had people come up to me wanting to know what’s my problem. Since I can’t control the movement I just say, “It’s my meds— they affect me this way.” In a way it’s like wearing a neon sign saying, “I’m a fruit cake.” Having a mental illness is stigma enough, but the TD just puts a new edge on it.

2) As a natural introvert the isolation has only deepened. (I avoid crowds and most social engagements.) I guess if the truth be told, I’m uncomfortable when others look at me strangely or whisper to each other. My standard ‘paranoia level’ has taken a new twist. I feel like I’m always compelled to explain. I guess I’m embarrassed when others are embarrassed.

3) I settle myself down in my faith to cope. I know I’m not alone in this– the Lord Jesus is always with me. He holds me tight through all these twists and turns. Since I isolate myself so much, I savor the connection I have with a few friends who have become inured to my condition. Social media helps out— Facebook is a gift.

4) One of the things I try to remember are the issues of selfishness and pride. I keep reminding myself it’s not about me all the time. One of the significant areas mentally ill people deal with is self-absorbed thinking. It seems it comes with the illness.

5) I try to keep a sense of humor everyday. It breaks down the mental pain to tolerable levels. We can take ourselves too seriously sometimes. Be more patient with yourself.

I certainly ask that you remember me in prayer. I’m in ‘uncharted waters’ (it seems) and I sometimes feel all alone with my mental illness and all its tangents. I want good to come out of this. (An instantaneous healing would be o.k. too.)

 

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The Sterile Curse of Social Isolation

“While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.”

Luke 24:15

Quite a few studies now out, revealing the reality of social isolation.  It seems more and more people are veering away from social contact. A Duke University study found that Americans are choosing to become more solitary than ever. Many are eschewing all relations all together.  This is a problem.

I’ve seen some of the statistics– fully 25% of people have no relationships at all, and something like 50% have no relationships outside of their spouse and children.  This disturbing trend is building momentum.  In 1985 the figure was just 15%.

I think that a lot of pressure may be coming from the internet, although Facebook and Twitter have reconfigured social connections. Longer work hours, the iPod and Blackberry, chat rooms and cable TV contribute to the move away from human contact.

The commute time is also a factor.  For every 10 minutes stuck in traffic there is roughly a 10% drop in social relationships.  So if you have a bad commute on I-80 you are more likely not to want to have a friend over.

Hundred years ago our society was far more geared for personal contact.  People would regularly visit each other.  Neighbors knew each other.  There were parlor games and dinners.  Music recitations and skits.  Card parties. Television and radio had not yet grabbed the countries psyche.  Sociologists and anthropologists confirm that our history was deep in contact with each other.  We were not built for solitary living.

With community life disappearing people are turning to online relationships. Our churches are trying to adapt, as even Christians are not connecting like they should.  I have been out in the Alaskan bush villages, and the older generation is frustrated because the younger generation seems to be in trouble.  “They don’t pick berries, or hunt; all they do is sit in front of the TV playing Nintendo, or their laptops.”

We need fellowship with others, and God as well. There are very few solitary believers.

I guess the biggest issue of all is mental illness.  Social isolation is a direct antagonist of depression and other disorders.  In order to get better, people must reach out and connect.  There is no substitute, no other option.

I see the shift in my own life.  I have dropped back about 80% of my Dish Network.  I am seeking to back off of being online 6-8 hours a day.  I am trying to be around flesh & blood as often as possible.  I am personally trying to consciously maximize that time.  It keeps me healthier.

To be healthier, we think its physical.  We have our gym memberships and we run on the treadmill.  That is good.  But I’m thinking we are losing out if we don’t workout socially (and spiritually) as well. Christians are  a special species; we need fellowship with others, and God as well. There are no solitary believers.

“This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”

1 John 3:11, NLT

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