Posts tagged mental illness
Posts tagged mental illness
“There is not one of us in whom a devil does not dwell.
At some time, at some point, that devil masters each of us.
It is not having been in the dark house,
but having left it, that counts.”
- Teddy Roosevelt
Eighteen years ago, in the fall of 1996, I plunged into a major depression that almost killed me. On the evening of my admittance to a psychiatric hospital I saw the above quote from a documentary on Teddy Roosevelt. For the next ten months, it informed my experience, as I did everything I could to leave the dark house I was in. Eventually, I was healed without medication and wrote about my experience in my memoir, When Going Through Hell…Don’t Stop: A Survivor’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety and Clinical Depression.
Over the next eighteen years I took what I had learned in my healing and put together a mental health recovery program which I taught through my books, support groups and long distance telephone coaching. In the process, I counseled many people who were in the same desperate straights that I had been in. I shared with them what I had learned through my ordeal—that if you set the intention to heal, reach out for support, and use a combination of mutually supportive therapies to treat your symptoms, you will make it through this. And in the cases where people used these strategies and hung there, they eventually were able, like myself, to emerge from the hell of depression.
During this period, I was aware that that major depression was a recurring disorder, and that while one could successfully mange the symptoms, there was no cure. As Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon said,
“Depression is recurring and cyclic. What we have is treatments, not cures. You’re never really free of it; you always have to be prepared for a recurrence and be ready to stave it off as it could creep up on you.
Thus, I knew that I was still vulnerable, but after such a long period of “emotional sobriety,” I thought that I might have finally turned a corner.
Then one day, when I least expected it, a series of personal losses led me back into Roosevelt’s dark house. In the midst of my grief reaction, the old symptoms of depression–chronic sadness, lack of pleasure, disrupted sleep, loss of appetite, heaviness in the chest, lack of energy, hopelessness and periodic agitation—were all painfully present.
Now that I am back in the underworld, I am called upon to practice those very techniques that I had been teaching others. Of course I have been using these tools all along as part of my “maintenance program,” but now there is a big difference
I am using them not to stay out of hell, but rather to get out. What makes the latter far more difficult is that you cannot will yourself out of a clinical depression any more than you can will yourself out of a tumor or an advanced case of pneumonia. There is no ten-day course of “brain antibiotics” which you can take and have the condition clear up shortly. In my case, I have learned from my previous episodes that antidepressants do not work for me.
If, then, I cannot directly make the depression leave, what can I do? As I have told my clients, “You have to muddle through and hang in there until things improve. “ Here is how I am attempting to muddle through.
I start with AA’s serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage the change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Here is what I cannot control and must accept: the biochemical changes in my body and the painful sensations and feelings they bring.
Here is what can I control − how I respond to those sensations and feelings. Here is what I am doing at this time:
Those words reminded me what a social worker told me during one of my hospital stays–‘The best predictor of the future is the past. You have emerged from these episodes before, and you will do so again.”
Meanwhile, I am still in the dark house. I have been in this prison for two months. I don’t know how much time I have left before the cosmic warden will grant me a reprieve. But I have faith that if I keep “muddling through” and do the things that support my healing then one day, when I least expect it, that reprieve will be granted and I will emerge from the darkness into the light.
Schizophrenia affects around 26 million people across the world and is the focus of World Mental Health Day this year. The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.
October 10th is World Mental Health Day
We’re helping to shine the spotlight on those affected by schizophrenia - from the 26 million people facing this affliction daily, to their family, friends and society as a whole.
What is Schizophrenia?
According to the World Health Organization, schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder, characterized by profound disruptions in thinking, affecting language, perception, and the sense of self. It oftentimes includes psychotic experiences, such as hearing voices or delusions. It can impair functioning through the loss of an acquired capability to earn a livelihood, or the disruption of studies. Schizophrenia typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. Most cases of schizophrenia can be treated, and people affected by it can lead a productive life and be integrated in society.
What is the aim of the 2014 World Mental Health Day?
"To ensure that people with schizophrenia get the best possible care and support to manage their illness and to help them recover." - Mental Health Foundation
To that end, Routledge has compiled a collection of resources in support of those affected by schizophrenia. Get 20% off your order by entering the code WMHD4 on checkout.
Do you believe schizophrenia is about people with multiple personalities?
If the answer is yes, you may be in a broad majority, but that doesn’t mean it’s true, which is why events such as World Mental Health Day are critical to assert the facts and dispel myths.
"Schizophrenia is not a ‘split personality’, says Dr Sheri Jacobson, clinical director atHarley Therapy.
"People with schizophrenia don’t act normal and then suddenly turn into someone else, like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act. A schizophrenic has one personality, it’s their perception of their world that splits."
Despite these high figures, many people living with the condition will not receive a formal diagnosis.
Misinformation in the media about the illness has led to a lack of understanding around it, meaning many suffering do not seek the support they need.
"It is perhaps more important to look at what schizophrenia isn’t, than what schizophrenia is, as films and media often portray it in ways that aren’t helpful views of the condition,"
Schizophrenia affects the way people think and perceive the world around them. Symptoms can include hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t real, depression or becoming withdrawn.
A schizophrenic may also experience delusions, which may start based in truth, but become more complex as the illness progresses.
Nigel Campbell, associate director of communications at Rethink Mental Illness, says: “As you can imagine, it can be very frightening for people when they first start to experience symptoms like hearing voices, or extreme paranoia.
"It can also be hard for people to differentiate between what they’re going through, and reality.
“This can also be very difficult and confusing for their families and friends, who might not understand what is happening to their loved one, or where to turn for support.”
Campbell says one of the biggest problems that people with schizophrenia face is the stigma around the illness - some sufferers still lose relationships with family and friends after opening up to them about what they’re experiencing, while others will struggle to find employment.
"Many employers assume that if you have a mental health problem, you won’t be able to hold down a job. It is a disgrace that only around 8% of people with schizophrenia in this country are in employment," Campbell adds.
Shockingly, people with schizophrenia or other severe mental illnesses die on average 20 years earlier than the general population, mostly from preventable illnesses.
According to Rethink’s 20+ campaign, this is because people with serious mental illness do not get regular physical health checks, and signs of physical health problems are often missed when they seek help.
Clearly we still have a long way to go before schizophrenia is universally understood, but attitudes towards mental health do at least seem to be slowly changing.
A recent survey from Time to Change (a mental health anti-stigma programme), found 79% of people now acknowledge that those with a mental illness have for too long been the subject of ridicule.
Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, says: “In recent years we’ve seen thousands of people starting to speak out, challenging big high street brands that have fuelled stigma and sharing their own experiences to help shift perceptions, including MPs, high profile sportspeople and people in business.
"However, we shouldn’t underestimate the task ahead of securing long lasting, irreversible and far-reaching changes in attitudes, behaviour, policies and systems.
"We will have reached our goal when someone can openly share their diagnosis of depression, schizophrenia or bipolar on a first date or at a job interview without fear of a negative reaction.”
There isn’t one specific cure for schizophrenia, a combination of medication and talking therapy are often prescribed. If you believe you, or a loved one, may be experiencing symptoms, the first step should be to visit a GP.
Dr Fiona Morrison, consultant psychiatrist at the Priory Hospital Glasgow, says well-controlled symptoms can allow a person to function fully in the community, and work.
"Psychiatry and psychology assessments can help with diagnosis and early management. The Hearing Voices Network can be very good for those who wish to use other ways [than medication] to take back control of voices,” she adds.
As well as being frightening for the person experiencing symptoms, schizophrenia can also be challenging for that individual’s friends and family.
Dr Jacobson warns that if you’re helping someone with schizophrenia, it’s advisable to get some help for yourself as well.
"Don’t blame yourself if things become more challenging than you can handle if a loved one suffers from schizophrenia, and don’t blame yourself that your loved one has the condition – it is nobody’s fault.
"Schizophrenia is a challenge for all those involved, and the feelings of fear, frustration and helplessness it can cause can lead to stress and anxiety that can take over your life is you let it,” she says.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about schizophrenia is that is is not a life sentence.
“With the right support people can recover, ” Campbell says. “About half of all people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia recover after one or two episodes. The key is to get treatment as quickly as possible.”
World Mental Health Day is on 10th October 2014. Rethink’s Schizophrenia Awareness Week runs from the 6th – 10th October. Visit www.rethink.org orwww.mentalhealth.org.uk for more information and advice.
Violence perpetrated on the mentally ill shows that victim-blaming is nothing more than a cover-up for subhuman behaviour
Some years ago, the Mufti of Australia got into hot water when he likened women who failed to wear the hijab to “uncovered meat”, at risk of being devoured by cats. In other words, if a woman who dressed “immodestly” were to be raped then she should share, if not take all, the blame.
Sadly, despite the outcry that followed, this attitude – that of blaming the victim – is still deeply prevalent. It should be obvious, but it apparently needs stating over and over: the criminal is the offender. That is, in a rape, the rapist is at fault. No argument.
Women, for example, do not just “get raped”. Somebody has to actively perform an unwelcome act. There is no place for blaming a victim for wearing the “wrong” clothes: if you do, you justify the action. Not to mention that there is no evidence that wearing so-called provocative clothing has anything to do with whether or not someone is likely to rape someone else. Neither is being intoxicated an invitation to rape (because cultures where alcohol is banned and women must be covered up don’t have a problem with rape, right?).
It is worth repeating here that the major motive for most rapes is not sexual attraction, but power. And rapes tend not to be spur-of-the-moment: most rapes are pre-meditated, and only about 8% of rapes are perpetrated by strangers.
More than this, if you blame the victim – by saying she is like a plate of uncovered meat, say – you also remove agency from the offender. Saying “She was asking for it” is simply an abdication of responsibility: it makes you into a simpleton with no control over your actions. An animal perhaps – a feral animal who should maybe be treated like one. It’s also pretty bloody insulting to most men to imply that they are helpless animals with no self-control, but that’s by the by.
To follow victim-blaming logic, you would argue that if someone (and it doesn’t have to be necessarily a woman) does anything that is slightly outside a cultural norm then it is their own fault if someone rapes or otherwise abuses them. If that logic doesn’t immediately sound perverse to you, perhaps it would help to think of an example. Shall we consider mental illness?
There is still a stigma against mental illness. It’s a broad term covering many conditions, and it is still majorly misunderstood. You just have to look at other recent events to realise this. People suffering from severe mental illness are often stigmatised, feared even, because of the public misperception of (for example) schizophrenics as violent. But you can’t help suffering from mental illness, and you can’t always be cured of it.
Would we blame a woman who suffered from schizophrenia if someone raped her? Would we attribute the rape to her illness, and say she should have taken steps to prevent it?
A study by researchers at University College and Kings College London, published today in Psychological Medicine, reports that of women with severe mental illness surveyed for the study, 40% had been the victims of rape or attempted rape.* This compares with 7% of the general population (the figures for men are no less remarkable, although lower overall: 12% of men with severe mental illness had been seriously sexually assaulted, versus 0.5% in the general population).
“the reality for patients is that they are at increased risk of being victims of some of the most damaging types of violence.”
– Professor Louise Howard, Kings College London
Somebody seriously sexually abuses nearly one in every two women with severe mental illness. Although this is an association rather than a proof of causation, the study makes it clear that the illnesses being treated could not all be caused by the abuse: all participating patients had been treated for at least a year and 10% had experienced sexual assault within the past year at the time of the survey. So it looks that for at least some (and I’d wager most) of the victims, the assault would not have happened if they had not been suffering from mental illness.
Nearly half of the sexual abuse of women was classified as “domestic”, that is carried out by a partner or other family member. So again, this isn’t opportunistic rape, not a case of seeing someone “asking for it” and acting upon that notion; this is abuse by a (probably trusted) family member who is more than likely aware of the victim’s vulnerability, and who deliberately takes advantage of it.
Would you say that it is the victim’s fault for having schizophrenia that somebody abused them? Would you say that the 12% of men in the survey who were sexually abused should have done something to prevent it? Were they “asking for it”?
No? Why then say women should cover up, or not drink, or stay inside, or not take raunchy photographs of themselves with their partner? Is it simply that people with mental illness don’t have a choice, but that women do have control over their dress and their alcohol intake. If that’s what you think, then take a moment to consider what that says about you. (Hint: it’s nothing complimentary).
So why blame a woman when someone rapes or otherwise treats them like an item of property?
Shall we take the victim-blaming argument to its logical conclusion and simply say, if you don’t want to be raped, don’t be a woman?
The civil thing to do is to say no; the perpetrator of the hack; the viewer of the photographs; or the apologist for the rapist: they are the ones who poison society like a cancer, and who deserve to be publicly shamed.
Missy Douglas: Visualizing bipolar disorder through art
By David Keller, BBC News
Fed up with keeping her mental health a secret, bipolar disorder sufferer Missy Douglas spent a year creating a painting each day to express her feelings. Controversially, she decided not to take her medication during this time, in the hope that paintings demonstrating her highs and lows would raise awareness of her condition.
Waking up each morning, Missy Douglas has no idea how the day will go. She may feel invincible, or she may be hit by a bout of depression.
Battling the emotional extremes in life has become second nature to the 37-year-old artist, who has lived with bipolar disorder for most of her adult life.
Last year she chose to do what she does best. Every day, for a year, she picked up her paintbrushes and painted exactly how she felt.
She decided to give up her medication while she carried out the project.
"I wanted it to be as pure a view of the disorder as possible," she said.
"Painting every day didn’t make me feel more stable or increase my sense of wellbeing," she said Douglas. "In fact, trying to look inside and express raw emotion or psychological distress everyday was very difficult.
"It sometimes exacerbated the depression or mania I was experiencing at the time. However, when I look back I can recognize the patterns and rhythms of my own ‘brand’ of the disorder."
Bipolar disorder brings about strong mood swings that can last for several weeks.
It can leave people unable to form relationships or cope with the day-to-day routine of work and - in extreme circumstances - lead to a feeling of worthlessness.
Douglas, who is originally from Northampton but now lives in New York, said living with the condition could be “extremely exhausting”.