one in ten children, aged one to fifteen have a mental illness, says a report from the british medical association’s board of science. one in ten children. due to lack of government funding, mental health services are failing the most vulnerable, such as children in care of those from black and ethnic minorities.
dr. marcus roberts, head of policy at mental health charity mind, said: “this important report reminds us that environmental and social factors have a big effect on mental wellbeing, and also that services for young people’s mental health are frequently lacking. it’s crucial that the right kind of services are there to break what can become a cycle, wherein poverty contributes to mental distress, which in turn leads to unemployment, stigma and further poverty.”
can we break the cycle? can we break the mental illness stigma? what will it take? i was talking with a friend today and i told her the mentally ill need a voice. cancer has lance armstrong. diabetes has b.b. king. aids has many voices and until the mentally ill have a voice, the stigma will continue. that is a fact. breaking the stigma will help break the cycle.
if we break the stigma so many things will change. suicide rates will drop. unemployment rates will drop. we’ll see fewer homeless men, women and children. if people would just open their eyes and see that a mental illness (whether it be depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder or bipolar) is an illness like any other illness, this world will be a better place. instead, today, we turn our heads because we do not understand.
i have a mental illness and i have been medicated most of my adult life. this would be news to many of my friends and coworkers except i have told most of them. i have been working steadily in the same industry for eight years. my resume is full of wonderful projects, all films i’m so grateful to have been a part of. usually at work, i am that girl everyone goes to. for advice. with a question. a problem. you name it. if i don’t have the answer, i will get it. if i can’t fix it, i will find someone that can. i am thorough and i don’t sit back and watch things happen. and most importantly, i have fun, after all we’re only making a movie. and because of this, i’ve been fortunate enough to work and keep busy, most of the time. unfortunately, not all of the time.
when i’m not working, i have days, weeks, months off at a time. i usually sink into a deep depression after a job. it’s all or nothing. 16 hours a day—go, go, go, to—- oh, i don’t have to set the alarm for 5am, now what? fears and anxieties set in. friends and family tell me to get a temporary job and i sit frozen. i cannot explain this and each therapist has their own theory, none of which i believe. i am lucky. i am very lucky. there are people with a mental illness, just like mine, who can’t hold a job. they can’t leave their homes. they are homeless. they are in prison.
the difference between me and these people? i have friends that understand. their hearts and minds are open. my family is supportive, no matter what. they might not get me, but they support me 100 percent. my maternal grandmother had no one to confide in. she was alone. when she did attempt to discuss her pains, her fears- she was “the crazy one.” oh yes, so, things are better today—but they aren’t good. not at all. i keep talking, i keep venting…for my grandmother. because she couldn’t. i hope we break the mental illness stigma in my lifetime. i dream of a venue full of actors, musicians, artists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, stay-at-home moms— all who have a mental illness and they are all there to talk about it. to raise money for research. to raise awareness—for an illness that people do not understand.
do you turn away from someone who is sad? and not the “oh, i’m having a bad day” kind of sad- the kind of sadness, darkness that is almost always there. people might refer to her as “debbie downer” and they want absolutely nothing to do with her. and if i may ask…yes, i will, why? why do you turn away? look the other way? because he or she brings you down? because you only want sunshine in your life? and let me ask you this, lets say this friend or coworker is not depressed. let’s pretend he or she is diabetic, would you ignore them or turn the other way because you fear needles? because you like sugar? i don’t think so. and i ask again, WHY? if this is not you, well, thank you. unfortunately, millions of people do turn away.
i know this has been done many times over, but let me list just a few people, recognizable names who have/had a mental illness. people that are/were probably surrounded by people full of compassion, their hearts and minds were open. even if others didn’t believe in them, well, these people decided to believe in themselves:
john nash, carrie fisher, linda hamilton, ted turner, abraham lincoln, patty duke, ben stiller, patrick kennedy, jane pauley, mike wallace, kay redfield jamison, lionel aldridge, leo tolstoy, john keats, tennessee williams, stephen foster, james taylor, vincent van gogh, isaac newton, ernest hemingway, sylvia plath, michelangelo, winston churchill, vivien leigh, charles dickens, beethoven, robin williams, burgess meredith, tim burton, buzz aldrin, greg louganis, rosemary clooney, brian wilson, tom waits, jim carrey, patricia cornwell, francis ford coppola
with proper treatment and care, people with a mental illness are often productive, creative leaders in any given field. unfortunately we do not have the funding for proper care for most people with a mental illness and we certainly do not have enough people that care enough to say something about this or even better, do something.
we need a voice. we need your voice.