Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Sun, Nov. 17

Don't buy into the stigma of mental disorders

Despite the fact that millions of Americans battle a mental disorder each year, there remains a stigma regarding these conditions. The stigma is much less than in years past, much. But there remain those who still can't get past the hurdle of stigma and seek care - or their loved ones don't encourage them in the direction of treatment, due to their own lack of education.

According to information at Mental Health America's website, www.nmha.org, medical science has made incredible progress over the last century in helping us understand, curing and eliminating the causes of many diseases including mental illnesses. However, while doctors continue to solve some of the mysteries of the brain, many of its functions remain a puzzle. Even at the leading research centers, no one fully understands how the brain works or why it malfunctions. However, researchers have determined that many mental illnesses are probably the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. These imbalances may be inherited, or may develop because of excessive stress or substance abuse.

It is sometimes easy to forget that our brain, like all of our other organs, is vulnerable to disease. People with mental illnesses often exhibit many types of behaviors such as extreme sadness and irritability, and in more severe cases, they may also suffer from hallucinations and total withdrawal. Instead of receiving compassion and acceptance, people with mental illnesses may experience hostility, discrimination and stigma.

A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thinking, perception and behavior. If these disturbances significantly impair a person's ability to cope with life's ordinary demands and routines, then he or she should immediately seek proper treatment with a mental health professional. With the proper care and treatment, a person can recover and resume normal activities.

Many mental illnesses are believed to have biological causes, just like cancer, diabetes and heart disease, but some mental disorders are caused by a person's environment and experiences.

Here are just two common misconceptions about mental illness:

• Myth: "Young people and children don't suffer from mental health problems."

Fact: It is estimated that more than 6 million young people in America may suffer from a mental health disorder that severely disrupts their ability to function at home, in school, or in their community.

• Myth: "A person who has had a mental illness can never be normal."

Fact: People with mental illnesses can recover and resume normal activities. For example, Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes," who has clinical depression, has received treatment and today leads an enriched and accomplished life.

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