As this new year begins, I look to it with a mixture of giddy anticipation and mild anxiety. 2010. The year my dreams come to fruition: I will become a published novelist. And as wonderful as that is -- the cost of the inspiration to create a story worth telling was exorbitant.
Most of the stories on the pages of this blog are light and funny and deal with the comedy of being human, but now, as the new year stretches its arms and rubs its eyes "Good Morning", I’d like to turn to something a bit more serious.
My hope for this new year: to decrease the stigma associated with serious mental illness -- with my novel, with this blog and with my work through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). When over 22% of adults in the US suffer from some sort of mental illness, there remains an overwhelming lack of understanding from the general population. There has long been irrefutable scientific evidence that mental illnesses are neurological brain diseases -- diseases --just as surely as diabetes, atherosclerosis and glaucoma are diseases.
E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. author of, Surviving Schizophrenia, called schizophrenia, ‘the modern-day equivalent of leprosy.’ Just as those suffering from Hansen’s disease are no longer banished to a Leper colony, it is my hope, and the goal of NAMI, that those struggling with serious mental illness will also receive proper treatment, respect and understanding.
There is a cost of mental illness gone untreated -- to the individual and to the community. We live in a society that repeatedly fails to help those who are obviously suffering deeply. They’re on our streets; they’re in our shelters; they’re in our jails; they’re your neighbors, your co-workers, your friend’s child, your own child . . . They look at us with wounded souls and we look away. Stigma, ignorance, fear, social embarrassment, lack of proper channels to medical care, lack of research dollars, lack of good medical care -- all theses things cause immeasurable and unnecessary suffering.
The father of a young man suffering with mental illness who was shot down and killed by a state trooper, was quoted in our local newspaper article as saying, “I wish I knew a little more about my son’s mental health, to be honest with you.”
There is help. There are answers. There is hope for those suffering from such neuro-biological brain diseases as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, severe depression and schizoaffective disorder. If anyone reading this is suffering, or has a loved-one who’s suffering, or just wants to learn more, go to http://www.nami.org/ .
National Alliance on Mental Illness is a not-for-profit, self-help organization of active and concerned families and friends of people who suffer from serious mental illness. NAMI works hard to decrease stigma, educate the public, support and educate family members and consumers (patients). We work on the local, state and national level to ensure quality institutional and community services for people with mental illness. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots organization with affiliates in every state and in more than 1,100 local communities across the country.
It’s 2010. Not 1610. It’s time: to look it in the eye, to find the answers. It’s time for mental illness to step out of the closet and into a modern, compassionate world.