How People Continue to Fail When it Comes to Mental Illness


We want to say we're on board, that we have empathy and that we understand, but so many of us are failing to acknowledge the reality of mental health. When people are sick, they do and say things they wouldn't normally say. That is why it is called "illness", the person isn't aware of their behavior while it is occurring and will likely feel terrible for it later, but it's too late. Someone has been affected by mental health and they feel the need to turn their back on it. Unable to identify these actions as symptoms of sickness, the mentally ill person becomes outlawed. People may not know the sick individual personally, making it even easier to cast them off, but often they do know them, and even hearing or knowing they are sick is not enough for that person to give the sick person a second chance. 


It's not to say that the mentally ill person won't do something out of line, but should they be punished for it, even if it is out of their control? Even if they really, actually don't mean it? No. We need to work with mental health and not against it. We need to find solutions, instead of adding more problems to the problem. There is a way to work with mentally ill people so that they aren't denied anything from life or treated differently by society. For example, the hit TV show Shameless touches on mental illness. One of the characters Ian has Bipolar disorder (It is not indicated whether it is Bipolar I or II, but indications of his behavior would point towards Bipolar I, the spectrum of the disease, which includes manic episodes. Ian wants to be an EMT, he aces both aspects of the exam but is later fired for checking off (on the application form) that he does not have a mental illness. He knew that by being honest and doing so, that he would never get the job. When his boss does a background check on him, his stay in a psych ward is detected and he losses his job. Ian doesn't stop at that, he returns to work awhile later and stands up for himself, he said he can help a mentally ill person better than anyone, he said that his disease doesn't mean that he can't do his job. He may be disabled, but that doesn't mean he still isn't capable. He tells his boss that if anyone on the squad, including her, thinks he is acting funny then they have the right to send him home. During the show, this does take place because Ian has a real illness with real symptoms. Symptoms he can learn to manage with skills, but symptoms, which do not fully go away. 


As a society, we need to embrace the mentally ill and work with them and not against them. As Ian said he was fully capable of doing his job, but at times he might require some extra care. This doesn't mean he loses his job just because he is sick. Instead of kicking someone out of a group because they have a mental illness, work with them. Check in with them and get them to communicate their feelings. People should not be denied jobs or access simply because they have a mental illness. This comes into play with interactions with people as well. You might not be communicating with your wise minded self, but you slip up and need that understanding from the other person. It's not to say that the actions weren't wrong or that the words weren't hurtful, but it is to say that this person was under the influence of mental illness. They were not themselves and something likely triggered them to switch, to what can be abusive mode. 

People are so likely to run away from signs of mental health. The labels themselves hold so much stigma, people watch things on TV, or they even experience things in real life and it turns them off. In some cases, so many chances have been given, people get fed up, and while I'm sure they wish you the best--people leave. It is very common for people with mental to lose significant others, friends, jobs, objects and more.

People have to remember that these people are working harder, some of them, not all, but some of them really are working towards having a functional life. Sickness is sickness and it is really real, which is why symptoms will show at times, even if that person is on their meds and living a structured life. 


People can't see mental illness in a positive light. It is something to be wary of like if you met a girl and found out she was sick, it might make you hold back a little. People are so afraid of the unfamiliar and often forget that people with mental illness want and deserve the same things as everyone else. 

It's not to say people who suffer from mental health get a "get out of jail free" card, every time they do something wrong. It's just to say, be cautious of it, be aware of it, and don't forget that it is a real thing. If your friend explains what happened and is sorry, I think you can reach a level of understanding. If this person is really out of control, then they aren't fairly accountable for their actions. They can work on the situation in therapy or with their group, whatever supports they have in place if they are lucky enough to have support. 

There are always going to be people who don't want to deal with mental health. People who are built not to deal with it. All we can do is accept this reality and try our best to help it by sharing our stories and making mental health a public issue, which should be celebrated. Celebrated because there are so many people with mental illness who are doing fantastic.