The reality of mental illness, final editorial

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, a variety of reactions and emotions are felt by the person and those around them. Fear of the unknown, sympathy and support surround the cancer patient. When someone is diagnosed with severe depression, the reaction is usually starkly different. It is very common from someone suffering from depression to be told by various people to just “get over it.”

The difference between cancer and depression? Understanding. Cancer is understandable. You can see on a scan where it is and see how to treat it. However, depression is not easily seen and you can’t cut it out of the brain or treat it with radiation.

In an article by Richard Friedman of the New York Times, he mentions that some suggested that rather than focus on gun control; we focus on targeting those with mental illness who use firearms. This as Friedman states would be wrong to do because mental illness is only a small factor for violence that is cause.

As the country begins to come back from the most recent tragic shooting in Connecticut, mental illness has been brought up throughout the nation, however, not to the degree that it needs to be addressed. But before help can be given, we must understand how severe of a problem mental illness is.

According to the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Eighteen million of these people are in the U.S. The National Institute of Mental Health also states that untreated, depression is the number one cause of suicide. More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder (NIMH).

An important aspect of mental illness is that for the majority of people who suffer from depression or other mental illnesses, is that it’s treatable. Through counseling and sometimes medication there is a way to defeat or at least control mental illness. Only in extreme cases are further measures such as institutions or 24 hour watch needed.

In America we are fortunate to have medical advances that allow us to research more in depth about what causes mental illnesses such as depression and how to treat it effectively. But with all of these medical advances, mental illness is still a largely unspoken issue.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “fewer than one-third of adults and one-half of children with a diagnosable mental disorders receive mental health services in a given year.” What holds people back from receiving help is the embarrassment that comes with not being able to control your emotions or actions because of chemical imbalances in the brain. Many people who have mental illness, go without treatment because they do not have the support behind them.

Healing from mental illness will never be a quick process. However, it has become increasingly detrimental in this country to provide help for those who suffer from it. Understanding that mental illness is a real disease is the first step to creating more opportunities for people to get help form areal problem that cannot be ignored.


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