Monday, February 23, 2015

Grappling with the Idea of Mental Health Problems

It seems like the cyclical nature of the world thrusts topics into our lives once in a while. And while we enjoy not thinking about them when they're not in the news, and we don't know what to really do about them when they are in the news, they exist the whole time even as much as the world at large would love to forget about them. This could apply to a lot of different things, but specifically I'm thinking of mental health as one of those issues. The most common way that mental health comes to the forefront of the collective American mind is when something goes terribly wrong (the kind of events that leap into my mind are mass shootings), and we tend to talk about mental health in America in terms like, "Oh, we really should do more as a country to help those with mental illnesses" or "Mental health professionals and research is so underpaid and underfunded".

Doesn't an issue this large and complex deserve a lot more than our occasional pity? Isn't it offensive that the only things that bring it into the spotlight are tragedies? Why don't we hear about the daily triumphs that mental health professionals make? Why do we only think of mental health in terms of the psychopaths that occasionally turn violent?

The last thing I want to do here is blame the media for not showing us a lot of the real issues that go on in America (although they aren't innocent in this matter), for a large part I think that the media gives Americans what we want to see and hear whether we realize we want to see and hear it or not. I think largely we like to hear news about stuff that we can't control and can't do anything about in our daily lives because we don't to feel obligated to do something, to feel empathy and to participate in the system as part of the cure for a societal ailment.

I don't know where I'm ultimately going with this thought train, and I don't have any sort of proposal to do something about it. It's just one of those things that a person points out and doesn't personally pitch in to do anything about it themselves and then points the finger at society as a whole for not doing that thing either. It's interesting how I can write these things that try to point out societal woes and ways that the world is unjust and ultimately be hypocritical myself and not do anything about the thing I'm pointing out.

One of the things I want to work on is picking a few battles/causes that I believe in and want to volunteer my time/effort/money towards. Maybe mental health can be one of them, I've always been shaken to the core by thinking about the effects of myself coming down with a sort of mental illness, recently the movie, 'Still Alice' stressed me out so much with it's depiction of early onset alzheimer's that I couldn't even bear to watch it. I get even further stressed out when I think of the possibility of a child of mine having any sort of mental handicap, not only for their quality of life, but for my quality of life as that kid's parent (how crazily selfish is that?). And while I know that just about no parent ever thinks of them as being capable of knowing how to handle that situation and the majority of them deal with that and in a lot of cases flourish with it, it still stresses me out to think of it.

So much of my life depends on the fact that I feel like a very rational, intuitive person. The idea that a person's brain could betray them, or that my own brain could betray me is one of the scariest thoughts. You wouldn't even know that anything is going wrong! That's part of the illness! I think as admittedly a very minimal first step, I want to be thankful for the rational, intuitive, fully-functioning brain I have as I still have it. Be more wary of and thoughtful towards those less fortunate than myself and perhaps keep my eyes open for an opportunity to help out (and the courage to take that opportunity).

'Til tomorrow

Tomorrow: Competitive Nature

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