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Mental Illness is REAL

My job as a psychologist is to assist people suffering from emotional problems to lead happier, more productive lives via a variety of treatments and techniques. My aim when I started blogging on Families was to provide articles of interest on a wide range of subjects that are part of the human condition.

I also sought to provide accurate information about what constitutes a mental disorder and to that end, I usually provide a list of DSM-IV criteria for each disorder so that the reader is made fully aware of both the number and types of criteria that must be present for an accurate diagnosis to be made.

However, my principle goal in writing the blogs was to help bring the subject of mental illness out in the open, to have it discussed and to offer hope for sufferers who experience emotional pain on a daily basis. The focus of that goal was to assist in breaking down the stigma of mental illness through education. In fact, my first blog on that very topic was called Taking the Stigma out of Mental Illness. Sadly, I and others like me, who seek to remove the shame that many sufferers of mental illness feel, find that this task can be an uphill battle.

Is it any wonder that people who suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar, schizophrenia, and a host of other real and painful disorders are often reticent in admitting that they suffer from these illnesses and coming forward for help?

I ask this question in response to the following comment made on one of my blogs entitled What is the Best Treatment for Depression? :

Sunlight, vitamins, and doing things for OTHER people are all excellent treatments for depression.

Statements like this are not only uninformed and uncompassionate, but they effectively undo much of the excellent work that mental health organizations around the world achieve every day. The person who wrote this comment is exhibiting their ignorance in the field of mental health by suggesting that sitting in the sun, popping a few vitamins (presumably the B-group, although this is not specified) and whipping up a batch of cookies for a sick neighbor will take away their depression. If only it were so easy! While this may be beneficial for a person who is having a bad day, this “advice” is not only irrelevant, but harmful to a seriously ill person.

Sadly, the writer is grossly misinformed about the true nature of clinical depression. They are, by insinuation, implying that the sufferer has total power over the way they are feeling and ignores the circumstances that brought on the depression. The real harm in a statement such as this, is that it reinforces a view held by some members of our society that adds to the already overwhelming pain that the depressed person feels.

The poster of the comment only demonstrates how much more work is required to break down the barriers that still are alive and thriving in this community.

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