Mental illness, that’s a funny term isn’t it?
In today’s lexicon, the term mental illness is used pretty widely. It can be used to describe someone suffering from depression, to PTSD, to even someone suicidal. In fact, today it is sort of a catch all term for anyone who is involved in a mass shooting here in the US. We are getting off point however, why are we (myself included) labeled as mentally ill? You don’t call an amputee someone suffering from body illness, nor would you call someone with cancer “cellularly ill”.
Good ol’ Merriam-Webster defines illness as follows:
illness noun ill·ness \ˈil-nəs\ :
an unhealthy condition of body or mind :sickness
It also gives an overly long and complicated definition for mental illness , which includes the phrase “environmental rotten luck” (in case you want to read it, it is pretty awesome).
However, mental being of the mind and illness being an unhealthy condition, one would think that mental illness could simply be defined as an unhealthy condition of the mind. Not as fun as being able to use rotten luck, but a fairly concise definition none the less. Then we are left wondering why there is a stigma regarding mental health, as someone who suffers from depression, PTSD, and probably my favorite reoccurring combat nightmares, I think I am uniquely qualified to explain the problem.
Since I primarily deal in science, let’s start with that.
There has been numerous research articles about this subject (different link in each word) showing that there is nothing mental about it. There is a physical connection, there is quite literally something different about the brain itself that no amount of ‘snapping out of it’ or ‘positive thinking’ will change. Positive thinking is not going to grow back an arm or a leg and while changes in the brain occur throughout life, simply telling someone to get over it is not going to change anything.
Frankly, telling someone it is all in their head, or to “get over it” will most likely make things worse for the person suffering, and trust me when I say it is most definitely suffering.
Which brings me back to the questionable word choice and the shaming of millions of suffering people, why illness? Illness is a bad thing sure, but we don’t particularly throw around illness to constantly describe someone’s condition. Mental illness is less of a mental problem and more a physical one that shows up in the cognitive aspect of an individual. That isn’t an opinion, that isn’t something political, that is just a fact and frankly, it is scary how few people who are suffering from depression, anxiety, or PTSD even know this fact.
The term mental illness is more of a slur in today’s society than anything else, which is frustrating, sad, and makes me question the direction humanity is going. I think it comes down to segregation, ever since we stopped roaming the earth alone we have segregated ourselves. The rich and the poor, the whites and blacks, gay and straight all nicely separated. Quite frankly, I would fear for humanity if aliens touched down and looked or thought even remotely different from us, because we — in all our stupidity — would try to segregate them too.
We do not know how the brain works; I cannot lie about that it would set a bad precedent here. We do not know what consciousness is — if it is even anything at all and not just some cellular consensus — nor could science tell you what more than 90% of the universe is made from.
What we do know is that if you suffer from depression, anxiety, or a whole host of other issues, there is something physically going on that you have no control over. It is not strictly a psychological issue. It is, in fact, mostly a neurology issue. We have meds that — in some cases — help, of which we cannot tell you how or why they work, just that in some — not all — people they work well enough to make pretending to be “normal” slightly easier.
In any case, there is help, there are people who understand, and most you can get help. So from your resident lunatic, it is “just in your head” as much as a stroke is “just in your head” or a heart attack is “just in your heart.” Please know that you are not alone.
If you need help, help is out there. For example, there is TakeThis, because it is dangerous to go it alone. They have a lot of amazing resources to help you find your voice and I am not affiliated with them at all, so you can trust that I honestly feel they do great work (and not just because I am a zelda fan).
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