Thursday, April 15, 2010

How Do People with Mental Illness Experience the World?

How do people with mental illness experience the world? How does the world respond to them? How helpful is it to label mental health struggles as illnesses? How helpful are medications? On the next Your Call, we'll talk about mental health--as it is experienced by those with imbalances, as it is viewed through psychiatric medicine, as it is portrayed through art. Do you or does anyone you know wrestle with depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder? Join us live at 11 or send us an email at How do we as communities provide support? And can we redefine the way we regard mental illness? It's Your Call, with Rose Aguilar and you.

Ken Paul Rosenthal--director of the documentary film, Crooked Beauty

Ashley McNamara--co-founder of the Icarus Project, a network of people living with and/or affected by experiences that are commonly diagnosed and labeled as psychiatric conditions.

Dr. Bradley Lewis--clinical psychiatrist

Click to Listen: How Do People with Mental Illness Experience the World?

1 comment:

Jerod Poore said...

How do people with mental illness experience the world?

The same way everyone else does. What do you consider as a warm day? What is a good tasting food? Excluding the blind and colorblind, does everyone see the sky the same way? Exactly what qualifies as a condescending question?

How does the world respond to them?

Define your terms. Does "the world" refer to everything that comprises the environment or the people around us? No matter how intense of a psychotic state one might be in at the time, gravity remains constant. As far as society is concerned we are among the lowest of the low. It is socially acceptable to openly express bigotry and fear. After the events at Fort Hood NPR did all it could to find evidence of crazy in Maj. Hasan's background. The writers at Huffington Post, with their pervasive anti-psychiatry stance, took it as a gift from God. It wasn't just a nutjob who committed mass murder, it was a psychiatrist. Other than fratricidal traitor taking out a dozen soldiers in Texas, what does it take for mass murder to get wall-to-wall coverage? Mental illness. Everyone remembers Virginia Tech. Who remembers what Bruce Pardo did Christmas Eve 2008? High death count, lots of orphans, bizarre and painful method of killing his ex-wife and her family, and dressed as Santa Claus during a slow news week. But absolutely no crazy involved. No crazy, no coverage. The mentally interesting are 11 times more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than the general population. Not until 2008 was a parent who murdered a developmentally disabled child found guilty and sentenced appropriately (25 to life) instead of receiving the traditional slap on the wrist. We don't count.

And don't get me started on the utter hypocrisy of Ellen DeGeneris and her 3 initials of crazy bit.

How helpful is it to label mental health struggles as illnesses?

On the downside there's the resilient misinformation that our brain cooties are contagious. In Crazy Like Us Ethan Watters writes that societies where various psychiatric and neurological conditions are considered to be due to some outside influence there is less stigma than in industrial societies, and the mentally interesting have a longer life expectancy. I'm not sure if I buy that, because Mr. Watters was unable to find any evidence of the last 100 years of advertising by Japanese pharmaceutical companies. But without some definition of mental disorders as something like "illness" people might even be more reluctant to take medication when medication is actually required. The stigma of taking medication is bad enough as it is. "Mental health struggles" is the sort of language used by people who think a better diet, fresh air, exercise, and generally manning up are all that is needed to overcome any condition.

How helpful are medications?

How long is a piece of string? The right medication(s) for someone who is correctly diagnosed by a doctor who will prescribe based on symptoms instead of an insurance company / HMO formulary for a condition that requires medication(s) is incredibly helpful. There is no perfect medication. The calculus of "Which sucks less, symptoms or side effects?" is a frequent reality. Anyone who is treatment resistant can wind up settling for partial control of symptoms and side effects that suck somewhat less than how it would be with no meds.

The mentally interesting can speak to the issues. We're more than a source of sob stories.