Tag Archives: diagnosing mental illness

Naming Mental Illness: It’s A Mind Game.

My beautiful pictureIn the wake of multiple lives lost at the hands of another, lone gunman, we as a society pause yet again to face the truly disturbing: sick minds are a threat to us all.
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And, the bigger problem looms. Our care and oversight with regard to detecting, diagnosing and treating the mentally ill is, to this degree, still woefully incomplete.
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To begin with, I believe we use the term “mentally ill” far too loosely, and imprecisely; consequently, a “cry wolf” mentality seeps into the public consciousness. We misappropriate the term, applying it whenever we think we don’t particularly like or understand someone, and miss the truly deadly potential in those who really are unwell.
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Let’s take a step back, and lay out some facts.
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MentalHealth.gov, the official website on the topic, states:
  • One in five American adults experience a mental health issue;
  • One in 10 young people experience a period of major depression;
  • One in 25 Americans live with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.
Yet,
“Half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before age 24.
Unfortunately, less than 20% of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need.”
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Given the above indisputable data, over 80% of those who are really ill get no treatment in their earliest years, when containment and rehabilitation is possible.
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Meantime, we go about our days interacting with all manner of personalities. Somebody demonstrates a trait not common to our own notions of good protocol, rubbing us the wrong way. Perhaps louder, or more vociferously than we might, such an one misbehaves in public. One of us says to another: “She’s mental.”
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Let’s not mistake acute passion, expressed in the presence of others, for imbalance.
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Fact:
“The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%–5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness.”
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How many of these lone gunmen were ever described by anyone who knew them as out acting? Rather, categorically, up until the moment of their psychotic break, each behaved in a manner decidedly well beneath the radar of public condemnation.
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Even as we move forward to improve our detection and diagnosis of the mentally ill, let’s check our reactions toward each other at the door. Become more wary of the unusually silent, among our young and old; watch eye movement; document the absence of response, rather than each outburst otherwise easily recognized; and, communicate all observations to the appropriate resource as soon as they have been made.
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But, withhold public declaration. Defaming the innocent is almost as deadly to our collective relationship as is missing one capable of suddenly taking yet another life.
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© 6/7/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Originally published at Medium.com
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