Approximately 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness in their lifetime. It seems the only time our society discusses mental illness is after a tragedy where mental illness may be a factor. Unfortunately, this only adds to stigma. I have a mental illness myself: schizophrenia. I know several people with mental illness. I am writing this piece for us.
I was told today by Allison Bonilla, LCSW, who knows about and fights against stigma that, “Mental illness is the woman who goes to work everyday, but for whom it’s a struggle to get out of bed. Mental illness is the little boy who sits alone because he’s too full of anxiety to speak and make friends, but whom everyone says is a good kid and causes no trouble.”
That’s the truth about mental illness. I know of people with, for example, depression who manage it as best they can and who are great people who go to work and raise their families. I know of people with bipolar disorder who struggle with the proper medication dosage and work part-time. I know people with schizophrenia who worry about stigma and who aim to maintain a career.
The majority of us do not go off the rails and murder our children. The majority of us do not shoot up schools. Look at the next four people around you next time you are out. One of you, it’s highly likely, has a mental illness.