I look sometimes at the way mentally ill people were treated in the early 20th century and it not only disturbs me, it scares me. What if I was born during that time? I would have shared in the fate of many who were abused and forgotten by society. I would have been marginalized. Many families were ashamed of their family member who had a mental illness so they were locked away in institutions for the mentally insane or, sometimes, in attics or rooms in their family homes. They were simply forgotten. At one time it was thought that the mentally ill had no feelings. They could neither feel pain or pleasure, neither cold nor hot and this led to some very barbaric treatments. Most were not fed; they were left to wander halls of institutions naked and lost in their own minds. They were abused, experimented on and often times died in those environments. Unloved, unwanted, marginalized.
Thank God we have learned valuable lessons about treatment and care of our mentally ill population. There are respectable Doctor’s, treatment plans, medication, out-patient clinics, therapy and, still in some cases, institutionalization (however, these institutions are a far cry better than those from the past). Many people who live with a mental illness can and do live fairly normal lives. We work, have relationships, worship our God, and live alongside people who are healthy. But, we are still marginalized. Every time there is something horrible in the news about murder, or abuse, the immediate response from the media is ” well that person suffers from a mental illness. Isn’t that typical?” I am here to tell you that NO it is not typical. People with mental illness are not all serial killers, thieves, abusers and such. But it is so easy for mainstream America to blame so many crimes on mental illness. I am not saying there are not criminally insane people who do horrendous things. There are. But there are many more people who commit horrendous crimes who are not mentally ill. Did you know that the defense of being criminally insane in a trial is rarely ever granted as a plausible defense? The accused usually do not meet the requirements. They knew what they were doing. But mainstream media would have everyone think that the mentally ill are dangerous…we’re not. We’re just different. We are dealing with a chronic condition that affects the chemicals in our brains. You can look at a scan of a normal brain and a scan of a depressed or a bipolar brain and the differences are staggering. It is a physical difference. We take medication and undergo treatment just the same as someone who is battling diabetes, yet, we are still stigmatized…marginalized. I wonder why. Is it fear? Misunderstanding our illness, or do people just not care enough to try to understand. There are so many people who advocate for those of us who suffer with mental illness but there are far more who attack us and judge us. God doesn’t judge us. He loves us. But until mainstream America takes it upon themselves to change the way the media perceives us, things will not change. It is an uphill battle; one in which I am on the front lines fighting. Not only for myself but all others who suffer. With God, we can do amazing things for this community. We live, we feel, we only ask that you try to understand and accept us and our differences so we will not continue to be… marginalized.