For those of us who labor in the field of Mental Health 365 days a year, we appreciate the focus given to this set of conditions each year in May. Even with the nation’s effort to bring awareness to the problem it is still the focus of so much stigma.
I visited with a lady this week who suffers from attention deficit disorder. She was diagnosed with this about 10 years ago when she continued to find difficulty focusing on tasks at work and was forced to change jobs over and over. Not due to a lack of skill, but her inability to focus on a single task. For those who have never been diagnosed with this condition, it is a very perplexing problem to deal with. Your mind is constantly racing, your thoughts are scattered, and you move from one task to another before finishing the first. Many become depressed because at the end of the day they feel as though they have exerted enormous energy yet are unable to see any project to completion. She was prescribed Adderall to help her and this has made a vast improvement in her life, she can focus on her job and complete tasks with great skill. It has been a blessing to her.
The Stigma: Even though she is much happier and more productive, her family and friends still frustrate her with comments like, “that’s what drug addicts take,” or “when will you get off medications so you can be like your old self?” These comments are very hurtful and nonproductive.
The Stigma applies to those who have used alcohol or drugs to calm their racing brain. Can’t you just quit? Can’t you just pull yourself up by the bootstraps? Yes, change is possible. Like any other condition of the human body, the brain requires the help of professionals to make changes. Self-help groups are nice but are no substitute for the guidance of professional mental health workers.
A lady I know is recovering from breast cancer. She is thankful for online groups and others who have been through the experience. She is thankful for the opportunity to help others who have been recently diagnosed. But she would not trade her support groups for her oncologist and surgeon.
This is a mistake that happens with mental illness. The seriousness of it is underappreciated.
This is why we have a month each year to enlighten the public about mental health. It is not a minor problem; it is a major disease that leads to tens of thousands of deaths each year. Deaths from alcohol, drug abuse, overdoes, and suicide. Let us start taking it seriously. If you have a problem or know a friend or family member with one – don’t hope it will go away. There is about as much chance of that happening as there is of breast cancer going away on its own.
Reach out. Help is available. As part of the family of Mental Health professionals, we are all waiting with open arms, non-judgmental, to welcome you to the beginning of a new and wonderful time of life.