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    Posted May 25, 2014 by
    Farmersburg, Indiana
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    Cast Away Stigma of Mental Illness


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     k3vsDad says he has been coping with depression for decades. He shared this video after six people were killed in a rampage on May 23 near the University of California, Santa Barbara, according to police. 'I know first hand the stigma, the humiliation, the misunderstanding of those afflicted by any type of mental illness. With the focus turning to the mental state of the young man who went on a rampage Friday night in California, I felt it necessary to note that part of our problem in dealing effectively with the issue,' he said.
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    Since  the tragic mass shooting in California Friday night by a lone man  wielding knives, guns and his vehicle to wreak death and mayhem on  unsuspecting victims, discussion has turned to mental health and mental  illness.

    The subject of identifying and keeping those suffering  from some type of mental illness has been linked to talks of gun  control, ways to keep those who are afflicted from access to firearms  and better identification of those who may be ill or suffering.

    It is good that the nation is talking about mental health and mental  illness. However, a lot of the conversation is reflecting the stigma,  fear and misinformation about mental illness.

    It is very  evident that many speaking out are lumping all those who have mental  concerns or issues into a basket of loonies or nutcases or crazed  killers waiting for the opportunity to lash out with violence.

    Some  of the violence, however, is not committed by those with a mental  condition, but rather a snap and acting out due to a situational  reaction. Yet, we want to make everyone who does such acts a crazy  person.

    This shows a lack of understanding and education on the  range of mental illnesses and the various treatments, remedies and  solutions to maintaining good mental health.

    There was a time when cancer or AIDS was only mentioned in whispers. Today those diseases are talked about openly.

    There was a time that shame and revulsion was attached to those who  were inflicted with these illnesses. Even the families were often  ostracized or talked about in hushed tones.

    Times changed as  did perceptions and advances in treatment and research increased. Sadly,  mental illness still carries it's own "scarlet letter" bringing shame,  guilt and false, hurtful jibes at not just those of us who have some  form of mental affliction, but also our families.

    People don't want to talk about mental problems.

    Even insurance companies and the government do not treat or look at  mental health in the same light as physical health. Mental illness is  too often not treated the same as any other illness. Even the Affordable  Care Act does not provide the proper standing to treatment of mental  illness, but relegates it to an inferior condition and limted treatment.

    Pregnancy  is treated as any other illness by insurance companies, but far too  many policies limit, to the detriment of the patient, treatment of  mental problems.

    Then we wonder why so many who have a mental  concern or issue fall back into the darkness, the gloom, the despair  that so often accompanies such conditions. Insurance stops paying.  Patients are released due to prescribed set number of days of treatment.  Those afflicted are left to stand on their own and make it the best  they can.

    Courts and states a long time ago closed down state  run mental facilities, which sadly proved inadequate. These facilities  were mostly a means of keeping the "mad" folk away from society in  general.

    Families would place their loved ones in such centers  and forget they existed. When those hospitals and facilities were closed  down, many of those who had resided there were sent into the streets to  fend for themselves.

    Even today, if anyone has any type of  mental illness, parents are reluctant to admit their child could have  such a problem. Siblings recoil. Classmates, fellow workers, church  members pull away and try to pretend they don't exist or do not have a  problem.

    There are so many levels of mental illness. So many of these conditions are treatable.

    There are some for which there is no effective treatment, but those are the minority of cases.

    For many of us, such as myself, we suffer from depression. People are so clueless to what depression is.

    Then there are those with bipolar or schizophrenic conditions. Others have varied affective disorders or adjustment reactions.

    Yet, we speak in whispered tones or we refuse to acknowledge the  mentally ill exist or that anyone of us could have a family member with  "problems".

    Yes, we need to strengthen laws, medical and  psychological exams, background checks to insure that those with a  mental illness that could threaten or lead to acts of violence be kept  from obtaining weapons. But at the same time we must change the  perception of mental illness.

    We must embrace mental health.

    We must treat mental illness the same as any other illness.

    We must get rid of the stigma, the shame, the condemnation of those who  may need help for a lifetime, episodically, or just a little help in  getting over a hurdle.

    We need acceptance and tolerance.

    We need education.

    We need better understanding.

    Until society comes to grips with the fact that not all of us are the  paragons of mental stability in the same way that not all of us are  titans in physical prowess, we will continue to see those needing  treatment go untreated.

    We will continue to see parents, loved  ones, children, spouses, friends refusing to talk about the concerns and  issues of someone with a mental problem until it's too late.

    We must embrace each other warts and all.

    We must start talking openly without shame, without stigma about mental  illness and mental health. We need to break the barriers in health  insurance that still refuses to recognize mental illness as the same as  any other illness.

    From the Cornfield, the nation needs to be  having a conversation about mental illness and mental health, but we  also need a change in our attitudes and perceptions about those of us  who deal with or are afflicted with some type of mental issue or  concern.

    Then, and only then, may we be better able to identify and prevent those who may be heading toward a violent and tragic end.

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