1. Everyone has feelings and moods.
2. Most people can control their feelings and moods.
3. People fear those who are out of control (drunk, angry, violent, on drugs).
4. Mental illness is a loss of control of feelings, moods and perception.
5. Therefore, people fear those with a mental illness, as they believe they are out of control.
They show this fear by:
- Pretending the illness does not exist.
- Assuming that the illness is contrived.
- Telling the ill person to change their behaviour.
- Minimizing the symptoms.
- Shunning them.
Which brings me to another, sadder point about invisibility. According to Stats Canada and the World Health Organization, suicide is the second leading cause of death in Canada for people under 45: ahead of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, and everything else. Accidents are the only cause greater than suicide.
But why do they say suicide? Every other morbidity category that WHO and StatsCan use describes the disease that caused the death. Suicide is not a disease - it's a behaviour. That's like saying eating too much sugar is a disease, or smoking too much is a disease. Nobody I know with a mental illness (myself included) attempted suicide wanting to die - we were very sick, and happy to be saved. (Besides, it wasn't my fault - Darth Vader made me do it).
Why are suicides never reported on the news? Broadcasters say it's because of a fear of copycats. But they cover murders, robberies and serieal killings. It's not like mental illness is contagious. Again, I thinkg that broadcast execs fear that reporting on mental illness might give their stations poor ratings - people fear the mentally ill, and less reporting gives us the perception that suicides and mentally ill people are extremely rare. So nobody has anything to fear.
Here are some things I think we should do:
1. Never minimize anyone's symptoms. Anxiety, bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, and all of the rest are debilitating diseases worthy of the same compassion as diabetes, MS, alzheimers, and all of the rest.
2. Rather than say that someone committed suicide, say "they died of mental illness."
3. Talk with friends and family with mental illness the same way you would talk to them about other health issues.
4. Use the mental health "cloak of invisibility" for good, not evil.
Mental Note: The best way to get compassion is first to show it. Acknowledge other people's problems before expecting them to acknowledge yours.