We all know someone who seems to be just a little “to the left”. Maybe that person laughs or giggles a lot, for no real reason, sometimes even at inappropriate moments. Perhaps he or she gets bent out of shape over the slightest thing. She is weepy and withdrawn on minute, happy and spry the next. He doesn’t care to join the group at work for any events or lunches. You never know what to expect from her. He seems unpredictable. Maybe he’s a loner. Maybe she’s just eccentric. But maybe, just maybe, there’s something clinically wrong.
Mental illness is all around us. Sometimes, it’s blatantly clear when someone is suffering, while at other times, you would never guess. They look just like you and me. For the most part, they act like you and me. Sometimes, they are you and me. Unfortunately, it is the cause of many incidents that may otherwise be prevented with proper diagnosis and treatment. There is an unnecessary shame associated with mental illness that is present in the large majority of cases.
All my life, I’ve been exposed to extreme cases of mental illness. My second oldest brother suffers from schizophrenia. Some of my cousins do. My oldest sister is clinically depressed in the deepest manner. What I have learned over these years is that keeping the schizophrenic person medicated takes a tremendous amount of effort because they don’t like the way the medicine makes them feel. While they are tormented when they are not medicated by voices and forces that make them do things outside of the norm, they feel like zombies who sleep for hours or days on end when they are compliant and take their meds. With regard to clinical depression, I have watched my oldest sister skip out on dosages because of the side-effects. I vividly remember the results of my brothers skipped dosages. He became uncontrollable and extremely violent at times. When he was medicated, if he was not sleeping, he was the kindest soul around.
Mental illness of any kind is nothing to be ashamed of and should be treated as early as possible. Persons affected by these illnesses need to know that they are not alone. They need to know that they are loved. Treatment does not come only in the form of a pill. Loving kindness and human contact are sorely need.