I’m angry. My doctor was commenting on the fact that I am in the last third of my life. No, I am not angry about that! Out of nowhere it just came to me that after all these years I am angry because the stigma of mental illness kept me from knowing my father. My father lived to be 87. He died almost 25 years ago. Odd isn’t it, how the past can wash over you without warning. I didn’t know about my father’s mental illness until I was in my late teens, early twenties. And then it didn’t mean much. I have memories of family friends picking us up when I was young and taking us while my dad was “away.” My mom had taken him for electric shock therapy; again. Didn’t know about that until much later. I became the spokesperson for my father when he was older. He had a nasty episode when he retired and I went with him and my mother to the psychiatrist. I was his number one advocate for the rest of his life.
But it is only now, in the last third of my life, that I realize I missed out on knowing my father. Too many secrets. And when you have secrets you hide a part of yourself. My mother and father hid parts of themselves because talking about mental illness was verboten. After all, it was your fault. It was a moral failure. Just pull up those socks. Get yourself together. Get over it. It was shameful.
Maybe if we could have been more open my father could have told me how he coped. Because he did. If you didn’t know that he was bipolar, you wouldn’t know. He and my mother did a great job. But how I wish he had told me. I would have been more prepared when I went down into the abyss of depression and suicidal ideation. And if there had not been such a stigma perhaps my family would have seen that I, too, was in trouble. In my early teens.
If we had been allowed to talk about mental illness seventy years ago, I would have known my father much better. He would not have put so much energy into the barriers he put up so that we would not know about his fight for life.
I was cheated out of a relationship with my father because of the stigma of mental illness.
The stigma of mental illness affects not just the one who has it. It affects all those who love that person. If we do not turn mental illness into an acceptable illness, a REAL illness, we will hurt so many more. Millions of people. One in five people have a relationship with a mental illness.
And, today, the main stream media is aiding and abetting the stigma of mental illness as it deflects from, and sanitizes, Islamic terrorism. How many Muslim terrorists have been labeled mentally ill? How many times has a terrorist been labeled mentally ill by the pundits without obtaining psychiatric records?
From the article “Is there a link between mass shootings and mental illness” by By Rachel Nuwer, 10 May 2018:
“When one of these horrible mass shootings occurs, people say, ‘Anyone who would do such a thing must be mentally ill”
If social media and sensationalist headlines are a guide, the fear of extreme violence from the mentally ill is common. “The idea of losing the capacity to control one’s thoughts or behaviours is scary and alien, which translates into fear of mental illness – particularly in its more severe manifestations,” says Paul Appelbaum, a psychiatrist at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons…In fact, few mass killers actually suffer from a diagnosable, serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and psychotic spectrum disorders. When it comes to mass shootings, those with mental illness account for “less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides”, a 2016 study found… Moreover, much of the violence that people with serious mental illnesses commit are minor infractions, such as verbal assault or hitting, not homicide (suicide, however, is a significant problem), and such infractions tend to be directed at those the perpetrator lives with, not at strangers and not at a mass scale…Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University School of Medicine said “There’s consensus in the field that the unique contribution of psychopathology to violence in the population is very small.”In the wake of an incomprehensible tragedy, however, the implications of that conclusion can be difficult for many to process.“When one of these horrible mass shootings occurs, people say, ‘Anyone who would do such a thing must be mentally ill,’” says Renee Binder, a professor and director of the psychiatry and law program at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. “But we need to be careful with our definitions because, while something is clearly wrong with them, it’s often not a serious mental illness.”
The latest sanitization took place following the Danforth attack in Toronto by Faisal Hussain. Without a scintilla of verification, the main stream media all latched onto a statement made by a family spokesperson. Faisal was mentally ill; “struggling with psychosis and depression;” not a terrorist! And we should believe it because a stranger to the family said so.
And then we wonder why people with mental illness stay quiet? Who wants to be associated with people like Faisal? What young person is going to reach out for help when people believe that the mentally ill behave like Faisal Hussain? Yet, the media prefers to stigmatize the mentally ill rather than do its job. In Canada could it be fear of Motion 103?
From the Ethics of the Fathers: “Rabbi Tarfon used to say, it is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but you are not exempt from undertaking it.”