Another Look at Mental Illness: Part One
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Health and Wellness

Another Look at Mental Illness: Part One

Revisiting perceptions surrounding mental illness.

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Another Look at Mental Illness: Part One
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To start off, let me ask you a question:

How is your mind judged?

What do people tell you about your tendencies, your thought patterns or the energy you devote to your intellectual passions or the lack therein?

You have your own worldview. You have your own way of imagining how the world should work and how people should treat each other. Your mind struggles to make sense of your own surroundings and how you should respond to external stimuli.

What if you were told that your way of seeing the world was inherently wrong? That you were unstable? That the instability and exhilarating unpredictability that defined you was a personality trait that had to be deleted in order for you to live a life that fit everyone else’s vision of a happy life?

Lately, I have been immersing myself in the thoughts of people who suffer from manic depressive (bipolar) disorder. About a month ago, I was introduced to the soundtrack from the musical "Next to Normal," which features a woman who suffers from manic depressive disorder and delusional episodes. In this musical, there is a song titled “I Miss the Mountains,” where the main character laments her newly found, medically-induced stability. She claims that she doesn’t feel like herself; that her life has become void of the color that used to define her life.

After listening to the musical, I read the memoir, “An Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jamison. This memoir opened my eyes further to the struggles of a person who struggles with mental illness. To this author, her “disease” is intrinsically connected to her personality. Although Jamison addresses the pain that manic depressive disorder has caused her, she also attributes positive traits to the disorder as well. In her book, she states, “Tumultuousness, if coupled with a disciplined and controlled mind, is not such a bad sort of thing...that unless one wants to live a stunningly boring life, one ought to come to terms with one’s darker side and one’s darker energies.”

These thoughts astounded me. As someone who has a family history of mental illness (depression, schizophrenia, etc.), it has never occurred to me that a person might feel connected with their symptoms. How much must they suffer, I wondered, if they have to suffer such extreme symptoms and then have society tell them that their personality is wrong?

Our generation should be all the more concerned with mental health, seeing as how mental illnesses are affecting young people today in higher concentration than at any other period in recorded history. Of course, the results of such high concentration of mental illnesses are devastating. According to psychologytoday.com, which cited the American College Health Association, suicide rates have tripled since the 1950’s in young people from 15-24 years old, placing suicide as the second most common causes of death within this age group.

The causes of mental illness vary, but most scientists agree that certain chemical imbalances within the brain are to blame. As bestmastersinpsychology.com explains, these imbalances hinder the brain’s ability to communicate with the body. Neurons are prevented from exchanging messages and as a result, individuals display signs of mental illness. For example, an imbalance of dopamine may cause a person to suffer from schizophrenia while too much adrenaline could leave a person to endure an anxiety disorder. In some cases, these imbalances are hereditary.

Consider, if you will, that mental illness is sometimes passed from family members to younger family members. Ponder the fact that sometimes the brain begins to function in disorderly ways without the sufferer’s permission. Remember these illnesses don’t cause physical pain; they affect the way the victim thinks.

Now recall the society we live in: it is a society that scoffs at disorder, one that is quick to place the blame on mental illness when a shooting occurs; it is a society that places a stigma around mental illness, causes people to feel as though requiring help to manage your manic depressive episodes makes you weak.

According to a study displayed on ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, JF Galvez, a researcher, concluded that “Bipolar disorder is associated with the positive psychological traits of spirituality, empathy, creativity, realism, and resilience. Clinical and research attention to preserving and enhancing these traits may improve outcomes in bipolar disorder.”

Eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness doesn’t mean that we should cause people to feel accountable for their disease. We should not imply that they are weak for suffering. If we were to truly obliterate the stigma surrounding illnesses that affect our society, we would allow people to embrace the positive traits that their illnesses come with. Maybe they would feel more comfortable with admitting that there are parts of their illnesses that aren’t positive at all, symptoms that they need help with. If we reacted more positively to mental illness as a society, maybe we would see a decrease in suicide rates.


Since mental illness is such a broad topic, a complete response could not be accomplished in one article. This is only the first article that I will attempt to discuss these issues, but I hope that you have learned a little so far about what mental illness is and how it could be better handled in our world today.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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