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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Call me crazy

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Why do we think if we ignore something, it’ll go away or that it doesn’t really exist? If a problem like mental illness doesn’t affect us directly, it’s easy to ignore.

I’m haven’t been a student of psychology in many years, but I know that mental illness can range from something like mild depression, which can be a passing ailment, all the way to lifelong psychoses that can cause a person to be removed from society in general.

The hardest thing, from my perspective of dealing with an adult I know with mental illness, is encouraging them to get help if they’re in denial.

However, society at large, it seems, would prefer to live in denial that mental illness is as much of a health problem as other “big ones” like diabetes or heart disease.

Flare-ups of mental illness can be damaging, not just to the person suffering from it, but also to those around them.

We’re the ones who pay. We pay literally, by incarcerating individuals who are untreated and committing crimes because they’re trying to buy drugs to self-treat the problem. If these individuals would be able to enter a program for help, it would be better than “just jail,” which is like placing a Band-Aid on a wound that needs suturing.

I’d hate to think of the cost we’d pay by ignoring someone with a mental health issue, someone who obtains a weapon of some kind—any kind—and chooses to act out as a result of their illness.

But it’s easier to ignore the problem. If it doesn’t affect us, it doesn’t make us responsible for providing a local treatment center for people, inpatient or outpatient.

It’s easier to joke about it, to make light of the lady wearing mismatched clothing who walks down the street, talking to herself—or is it the voices harassing her, telling her to do who knows what?

It’s easier to watch shows about mental illness and think, “Oh, that only happens in the big cities, with drug addicts, or other people. Not here.”

It’s easier to be in denial with a family member, to think, “Oh, he (or she) would never hurt anyone” or “They’re just having a rough patch” or “Well, you know how Aunt So-and-So is; she’s just difficult to deal with.”

For those with good insurance, the path to help is clear. But for those without insurance or on the fringes of society, the path to help is not so clear. It is uncertain. I recently told someone, “No wonder some of the homeless are also mentally ill.” They don’t have the means to find help, nor anyone to come alongside them and show them the way. And for those with family members who battle mental illness, it is a family battle as well that is exhausting.

Mental illness is no respecter of persons. You can be wealthy or poor; male or female; white, black, Hispanic, Asian, or any mixture; educated or not; urban or small town. When the brain is ill, it doesn’t matter who you are.

We do ourselves a grave disservice if we don’t stop for a moment and consider what we’re doing—or not doing—for the mentally ill in our community.

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