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    Posted January 24, 2015 by
    RALEIGH, North Carolina
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    First Person: Your essays

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    All you wanted to know about mental illness, but were either afraid to ask or didn’t know what to ask,

    All you wanted to know about mental illness, but were either afraid to ask or didn’t know what to ask, Here’s your opportunity. So let’s get started.
    For a quicker and long term recovery it is essential that we eliminate the stigma of having a mental illness. As with a sustainable sense of wellbeing, this will be a long process and the more we ignore and lose focus the longer it will take.
    With all the forums of social media, including presenting information on the major news networks; i.e., CNN iReport, we now have the best chance in history to eradicate the stigma, but we need to make; families of and the mentally ill and the general public aware that our comments need to be made in a relatively professional way or risk extending the stigma. A comment I heard when I first went to work after earning my business degree was; “it takes a hundred (100) “ata boys” to cover one “ah ___ you fill in the blank.
    You can visit my iReport video, “A Life Sentence of Ridicule, Shame and Discrimination” for a brief bio, but here’s a short synopsis; grandmother and father were disabled with severe depression and bipolar respectively for over half their lives, I’m a Decorated Vietnam Veteran, business degree, family, but had an erratic business career, because of recurring bouts with bipolar, but more importantly as a volunteer for over 10years facilitating support groups for families of and people with a severe mental illness. This was made possible because of many years of therapeutic counseling and the right combination of medications that when I reveal that I have bipolar people say, “but you’re more normal than I am.
    According to the Mayo Clinic Staff; Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, bipolar, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.

    How I like to define mental illness is to explain the effect a mental illness has on the ill person.
    A mental illness is an illness that robs the ill person of one or more of the following: dignity, identity, credibility, self-image, confidence and the ability to experience love, hope, joy, peace and a sense of wellbeing. These emotions are replaced with: racing thoughts, fear, anxiety, paranoia, resentment, anger, euphoria and a lack of trust.Without medication and therapeutic counseling a few or all of the conditions explained above will increase in intensity and continue and unless treated will result in hospitalization and a chance, though small, to become a danger to themselves and others.
    There are a number of treatment options known to the mental health community that would significantly improve the patients chances for recovery, but have not been implemented due to a lack of public acceptance, the cost and knowing how to implement these elements.
    Generally speaking, in my personal experience and observations, whether people beginning a new job with a new company, treating people with a mental illness or other serious illnesses; i.e., cancer, heart disease, if the afflicted follows the process/treatment plan, it will take 2 years to reach or regain a level of “normalcy.”
    Where do we go from here? My goal is to begin a national dialog with your comments. I want to encourage all people, including, but not inclusive, mental health professionals, family, friends, those with a mental illness and the general population to comment. We as a group are the only ones that can get the dialog going and sustain it. This is not a forum for personal attacks or venting.
    Our mission is to educate those with a mental illness, their families and friends with ways others have overcome life’s daily struggle when afflicted with a mental illness, educate the general population to the truth about mental illness and correcting the myths;i.e., the “mentally ill are violent”, and false characterization of persons with a mental illness. I believe this can be a good start for our destination to recovery.
    Here are just 2 of many words and comments used by people with a mental illness, their families and friends and the general population that stigmatize mental illness. Using the term mentally ill; grammatically means everyone with a mental illness, instead of the person has a mental illness, I have bipolar, instead of I am bipolar and my son/daughter/spouse has bipolar, instead of is bipolar. We don’t discuss people with cancer as my son/daughter/spouse; “is cancerous.
    Just think of the thousands of comments made over the course of the last 3 years regarding “gun control, violence and the mentally ill and how damaging and discouraging it is to people with a mental illness, their families and friends.
    If we don’t come together and do something, whether in this forum or another, the stigma and improving our society will fall on deaf ears.
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