In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ever think about the mentally ill?

If you are an average American, your answer to this question is - not very often.

I think about mental illness, and the people affected by it, rather frequently.

Partly because I ran secured psychiatric facilities for 9 years. Partly because I have a sister who is a paranoid schizophrenic.

Since this is a subject so near and dear to my heart, I'd like to do two things: Share some about mental illness and ask you for something.

Did you know that in 1991 the National Institute for Mental Health estimated that 2 - 4 million individuals in the United States are severely mentally ill? This sounds like such a divergent number but it's difficult to gather this type of data; my only reason for citing this number at all is to demonstrate that mental illness affects a lot of people.

If I could tell people any one thing about mental illness is that's individuals with mental illness suffer.

They suffer the symptoms of their illness, the estrangement and disenfranchisement of society and the consequences of their frequent poor choices. Medications, although they are significantly better than they were in the past, still have lots of uncomfortable side effects. The one group of side effects that many people have told me about is that their mind feels less sharp, it's difficult to concentrate, they feel drained of energy, don't feel like their real self, and their passion is gone. But it's a catch 22; without the medication they have all kinds of non reality based beliefs that their acting upon causes many troubles in their lives, and with medication they feel lethargic, dull and not themselves. Would you like to have to make that choice?

Just as with anyone else, all mentally ill individuals are not alike. But my experience has been that there exist some really common behaviors you will find for many individuals who either will not take medication or whose symptoms appear to be treatment resistant. Many of these individuals are up much of the night, talk on and on about negative things, have ritualistic behaviors (things like incessant washing of body parts/clothing/surfaces, or spraying everything with disinfectant, or needing to always walk in an incredibly specific pattern) that make it difficult for those around them. Sometimes they misconstrue people that they encounter out in public places, and so they respond according to their misperceptions in a loud, inappropriate manner. Due to their pervasive thoughts they miss social cues and often act in a manner that those around them find uncomfortable. On some level these individuals are typically aware of all this, yet don't seem able to control themselves totally.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) estimates that around 1/3 of the homeless population is mentally ill.

Ok so I've told you some information about mental illness. Now I'd like to ask you for something.

The next time you see a person who is acting way over the top not normal, think about this information. Remember that, although this person may be making your or someone else's life very difficult, the truth is that their own life is way more difficult.

So, go ahead and go out of your way to be as nice as possible to them.


"BUTTERY"fly said...

Hi Tracy,
In my teen years, I had one friend who used to be mentally illed...
She was an orphan.. I once took care of her, My family funded her medications and after 2 years.. Thanks God for she recovered.
She chose to established her family in other country, away from the people who was aware of what happened to her.


Tracy said...

How wonderful that you and your family were able to help her. It's great that she got better.

In the case of certain mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, the person never "get over it" but they can become less symptomatic.

Donna Bragg said...

I think it is just great that you posted on this topic! It is a great reminder to me to pray for those that are mentally ill. I am not around it myself, so I need reminded about that need.

I love people so much, and it breaks my heart to think of these individuals suffering so much, but JESUS has not left them, HE knows exactly where they are and what they need. HE alone is the only one who can truly help them.

It is so sad that people have to be reminded to be kind to the mentally ill. We should be kind to one another regardless of what state of being we are. Sin in the world is so cruel. BUT, ONE DAY WE WILL RECEIVE OUR GLORIFIED BODIES AND THERE WILL BE NO MORE SUFFERING AND WE WILL LIVE WITH JESUS FOREVER!! PRAISE JESUS!!

Praise GOD for you sister!

Your sister in CHRIST,

Alice Audrey said...

I already do.

Tracy said...

Thanks for the encouragement Donna. There are many things I do not understand in this life and people suffering is one of them; but you are right - that day will come when we see Jesus and suffering will be no more!

Gee Alice - that's great that you go out of your way to be as kind to people as possible. Wish I could say that about myself but I can't - sometimes mentally ill folks can be so frustrating....the post was written from that struggle of my own. If you deal a lot with mentally ill people it's easy to want to talk them out of being unreasonable (believe me I've talked with lots of employees and families and I'm not the only one who struggles with this) but you can not apply logic to a non reality based belief system. Sometimes I'm able to come along side of someone and help them that way; but sometimes I am not creative enough to come up with a way.

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