Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Imagine A World Without the Stigma of Mental Illness

I heard the song Imagine sung by John Lennon today and I thought it would be grand to imagine a world without the stigma of mental illness. So what would the world without the stigma of mental illness look and feel like?

It would be a world where people don’t treat you any different than if you had any other chronic illness, like cancer. You are not a pariah at school, work, and place of worship. Treat people with mental illnesses with respect and dignity, just as you would anybody else, you would want to be treated this way too. If you are sick people actually ask after you and offer to help you out with casseroles, run errands, etc. One of the most important factors in recovery from mental illness is the understanding and acceptance by family and friends.

It would be a world where students in school would get the extra supports, if needed, to help them stay in classes with their counterparts instead of being segregated into “special education” classes. It’s an embarrassment that 50% of students with a mental illness age 14 and older drop out of high school—the highest dropout rate of any disability group.

It would be a world where there are accurate diagnostic tests and people living with mental illness would have access to affordable cutting edge treatments with few, if any side effects. Health insurance would cover these treatments without limitations based on the assessments of medical and mental health professionals.

It would be a world where people living with mental illness and their families get the support of their families, friends, colleagues, classmates, and communities. I’d like to see an environment where people can stop quietly bearing the symptoms of their mental illness without ever showing signs of their illness to others. I want to see people of all cultures abolish the shame and guilt of mental illness. Shame and guilt cause silence and silence hurts us all.

It would be a world where there no one takes their own live because they are not ashamed or afraid to ask for help when they need it. There will be enough mental health professionals and community-based programs to provide the care that is needed by anyone.

It would be a world where we have long-range plans in place to meet the needs of all the active duty service members, veterans and their families before we engage in war plans.

It would be a world where everyone is educated about mental health starting at an early age just as they are about health/hygiene, using age appropriate materials, knowledge building year after year. These should be integrated.

It would be a world where first responders (emergency and law enforcement personnel) are properly educated and trained on how to interact with people living with mental illness in crisis so community-based services are accessed instead of the justice system.

In closing “you may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will live as one”